Kochi: Likening the Congress’ poll debacle in Delhi to an “unmitigated disaster like coronavirus”, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh has said it must “ruthlessly” reinvent itself or face the prospect of becoming irrelevant.
The note of caution for the Congress by Ramesh, a former union minister known for his outspoken views, came close on the heels of a call by fellow party leader M Veerappa Moily for a “surgical” action to revive the party.
“Congress leaders have to reinvent themselves. Congress party has to reinvent itself if it has to be relevant,” Ramesh, 65, told PTI in an interview here on Wednesday.
“Otherwise, we are staring at irrelevance. Our arrogance has to go, even after six years out of power sometimes, some of us behave as if we are still ministers.”
In Ramesh’s view, local-level leaders have to be encouraged and nurtured and have to be given freedom and autonomy.
“The substance and style of our leadership has to change,” said the Rajya Sabha MP who is here to participate in the ongoing Krithi International Book Fair organized by a society controlled by the Kerala government.
On the Delhi Assembly poll outcome, Ramesh alleged that the BJP utilised the anti-CAA protests at its epicentre here in Shaheen Bagh to “polarise” votes.
“In the short run BJP has not won but the result is a disaster for the Congress party also.”
“It is an unmitigated disaster like coronavirus for the Congress,” he said.
The Congress drew a blank while the BJP bagged 8 seats.
The AAP scored a landslide victory bagging 62 seats.
The Congress leader claimed the Delhi election result was a rejection of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s style of politics.
“It is a resounding slap on his face and it is a rejection of the language used in the campaign, tactics used in the campaign,” Ramesh said.
Ramesh also said the party was virtually non-existent in Bihar and almost extinct in Uttar Pradesh but added it was strong in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and has staged a comeback in Haryana.
Moily on Wednesday said the focus for the Congress should be now on reviving, rebuilding and rejuvenating the party.
“The Congress requires total rejuvenation. You can’t point (fingers at) out one or two leaders (for electoral setbacks), accountability will have to be taken by every Congressman. Rank and file,” Moily said.
“Now, this is the time to act for rejuvenation of the party. It has to be revamped. Surgical action will have to be taken so that it starts yielding the results,” he added.
Ramesh also spoke on the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) and said it does not take away anyone’s citizenship but was selective in providing one, to which he was opposed to.
Worried over the “propaganda” that the Congress is soft on minority communalism in the country, Ramesh said the party “cannot be selective” on the issue and suggested it should target the Popular Front of India(PFI)-type of communalism also.
The PFI or Jamaat-e-Islami type of communalism was as dangerous to India as “RSS type of communalism,” he said, while echoing the views of senior party leader and former Defence Minister A K Antony who earlier said “we cannot be seen to be insensitive to the sentiments of the majority community.”
Speaking on minority communalism, he said: “We(Congress) have to be very clear. We should not be pandering to any religious sentiment of anybody and that is real secularism.”
“Real secularism is fighting communalism of all types with aggression.”
Ramesh said the Congress has to be bold and aggressive against all forms of communalism.
“Unfortunately in the public, the propaganda is that the Congress is soft on minority communalism. It is a reality. We have to address this issue. We cannot live in a make-believe world. We should wake up.”
“The Congress’ policy is equal justice to everyone. But people have doubts about whether that policy is being implemented or not.”
“This doubt is created by the party’s proximity towards minority communities and such a situation would open the door for the entry of communal forces into Kerala,” he said.
Reiterating that the Congress has to fight “RSS-type of communalism, BJP-type of communalism as also PFI and Jamaat-e-Islami-type of communalism,” Ramesh said, “we cannot be selective, we have to be upfront, bold and say minority communalism is as dangerous to India as (much as) majority communalism is.”
“This is what Jawaharlal Nehru did. He took an uncompromising stand against all forms of communalism.”
The Congress party should discover the same degree of aggression against minority communalism and outfits like the PFI and Jamaat-e-Islami, he added.
“There are so many outfits like these in different states. They should be targeted the same way we target the RSS.”