Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on September 18 asserted that non-BJP parties that believe Opposition unity without the grand old party as the fulcrum is possible are living in a “fool’s paradise”.
Without naming any outfit, he said many regional parties have back-stabbed the grand old party in the past to serve their own self-interests, and that such parties should stop using the Congress as a punching bag.
“There cannot be any Opposition unity without the Congress as its fulcrum. That is fundamental.
“If any non-BJP outfit thinks any alliance sans the Congress can provide a stable government for five years, it is living in a fool’s paradise. There can never be any Opposition unity minus the Congress,” Mr. Ramesh said in an interview with PTI in Kolkata, where he had come to attend a party programme.
Although he dubbed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the “B-team” of the BJP, Mr. Ramesh stopped short of analysing the role of the Trinamool Congress, which too, like the Arvind Kejriwal-led party, is opposed to the Congress, by saying, “It [TMC] has Congress in its name.”
“We have said this before…there is ample evidence to prove that AAP is the B-team of the BJP. If you look at its history or the background of its leaders, you will know it. Regarding the TMC, I am yet to make my assessment, but I think they, too, have Congress in their name,” he said.
Without naming anyone, Mr. Ramesh said those who talk of Opposition unity without the Congress only want to weaken the Opposition front and the grand old party.
“In an alliance, you give something and receive something in return. It is an understanding. So far, the Congress has been offering, and everyone has benefited from it. And after getting benefits, they have been trying to use the Congress as a punching bag to weaken it. This has to stop now,” he said.
Terming the Congress the “big elephant of Indian politics”, Mr. Ramesh said no one should make the mistake of “writing it off”.
Speaking on the ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, he said a strengthened Congress and a more durable and constructive opposition would be the end product of the march.
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“We have started the Yatra over national issues. The country is going through a situation where our politics, economy, and institutions are falling apart due to the BJP and its divisive politics. Another motive of the Yatra is to galvanise the rank and file of the Congress ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” the former union environment minister said.
Mr. Ramesh said the Yatra was not aimed at State elections in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
When told that the Congress is speaking of ‘Bharat Jodo’ when the party itself is in disarray, Mr. Ramesh said the outfit is trying to fix its internal issues.
“We have to set our house in order, and we are doing it. We have to fix our issues and are in the process of doing it. The Congress is a 137-year-old party; sometimes, there are some crucial moments in history when you need out-of-the-box thinking to reach out to the masses. Bharat Jodo Yatra is one such thinking and will be a game changer,” he said.
A nearly 3,650-km-long padayatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir is being undertaken by senior leader Rahul Gandhi since September 7. The five-and-a-half month-long march aims to galvanise Congress cadres and strengthen the organisation, breathing in new energy.
‘Party in disarray’
Taking a swipe at Congress ‘G-23’ leaders, senior politicians of the party who had sought an organisational overhaul and elections at all levels in a letter to the Congress president in August 2020, Mr. Ramesh said that after the age of 65, senior politicos should act as “mentors and groom next-generation leaders”.
“Senior Congress leaders should act as mentors. I believe I am now 68 and don’t have the same energy I used to have ten or five years back. After the age of 65, one should identify people who are in their 30s and 40s and groom them for becoming next-generation leaders,” he said.
Speaking on the ongoing desertion of senior leaders from the party, Mr. Ramesh said those who have got everything from the Congress are leaving the party.
“There are two types of people who are leaving the Congress. The first type includes those who have benefited immensely from the party. Ghulam Nabi Azad is an example. He got everything from the party and has now left it.
“The second type are those leaving the Congress to escape investigative agencies which are after them for their previous sins. Dedicated Congressmen will never desert the party,” he said.
When asked whether the idea of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ to mobilise masses has been taken from the ‘Ram Rath Yatra’ of the BJP in the 90s, Mr. Ramesh replied in negative.
“Earlier, on several occasions, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi have taken out yatras, but maybe not of this scale. And regarding BJP’s yatra, it was in response to V.P. Singh’s Mandal Commission. The Bharat Jodo Yatra is against the divisive politics and policies of the BJP,” he added.