'Time for Priyanka to get into active politics'



New Delhi: As the UPA-II celebrates its second anniversary, a veteran Congress leader on Sunday said it is time Priyanka Vadra gets into active politics to help the party get back to power on its own in the 2014 general elections by discarding the "crutches".

Vasant Sathe said that if the Congress' "first family" -- Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka -- embark on a vigorous mass contact drive in the months and years to come, the party could restore the past glory of single party rule in the next Lok Sabha polls.

"I tell you with guarantee that if Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka go out all over the country, then you will see a revival of the Congress with the emergence of a vibrant organisation. There are no short cuts. It is time to throw the crutches," the 86-year-old former Union minister said.

The Congress leader said that after Sonia, Priyanka is the one who has more mass appeal as compared to Rahul but she is not coming forward in active politics as she apparently feels her brother will be "sidelined".

Sathe, who was a close associate of Indira Gandhi, said that the late leader in her difficult days struck a rare chord with people through her mass appeal and contact and the same should be emulated now.

Accusing the "baseless people" acting as advisors of the leadership for promoting alliances, he said, "The theory of coalitions is not only ridiculous but disastrous for Congress as it sips the energy of the organisation instead of making it strong."

Regretting that there was growing impression among people that the Congress president was "unapproachable", he said that Sonia could remove it by embarking on a major mass drive.

He said Rahul's visits to the houses of the poor were useful, but what is more important is "mass contact than individual contact".

Sathe said that he had taken Indira Gandhi to Vinoba Bhave during the difficult days when the Congress had lost badly in the post-Emergency election. At that time, Vinoba's advice to her was to reach out to the people.

This was the need of the hour as regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa and Nitish Kumar were growing and "national parties are proving to be weak including Congress", he said.

"A fragmented leadership at the Centre will not be in the interest of the country."

Sathe's remarks come at a time when there has been an unease in the UPA with allies like DMK coming under the shadow of the 2G spectrum scam and a section of the Congress feeling that it was time to "think out of the box" for the future elections.

Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have generally made light of queries whether the UPA experiment will be repeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections maintaining that the polls were far away.

PTI