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“It is not right in God’s sight to obey men rather than God.”

Congress needs to heal itself and re-strategise, says Digvijay Singh

NEW DELHI: Urging Rahul Gandhi to be more “hands-on” since “I don’t think he is now, not totally”, Congress leader and general secretary Digvijay Singh has said it is time the Congress “turn into a cadre-based party” because “the masses have dwindled” and “we need foot soldiers”.

In an interview, Singh said, “We are a mass-movement party. But now, where are the masses? The masses have dwindled. We need foot soldiers who will convey what the Congress party stands for and believes in, and that is why we need cadres. After all, what is the BJP without the RSS cadres?”

He said the party needs to work to first heal itself and “restrategise”. “Mr Rahul Gandhi is a very intense person, a voracious reader who you can talk to, at length, on any issue. He has gone through a lot of trauma at a formative phase (his grandmother and father were assassinated) but he has to lead. Almost everyone in the country is waiting for the leadership to draw up a roadmap and tell the cadres what to do. All are prepared to fight it out.”

Singh believes the Congress lost the chance to fix itself between 2004 and 2014 when its leadership was not in the government.

“This is my grouse. In 2004-05, a party committee to look at future challenges was set up. We met and drew up a report. And also stressed the importance of organisational discipline. The Congress had become a moving train which anyone could get on and jump off later. We missed not having a cadre like the right-wing does, of being in every mohalla, field, road, bus-stand and railway station where cadres are trained to speak continuously about what the Congress stands for,” he said.

“The PM communicated very little, the Congress president spoke when she stepped out, as did the vice-president. But in this 24×7 media world, the shelf-life of any idea or speech is just eight hours. We lost the perception war and the opposition BJP could create the hype that the UPA was the most corrupt government which was contrary to facts. Like on 2G or coal, very big notional losses were cited as actual losses. Even if our government had auctioned then and the exchequer would have earned that money, the consumer would have had to eventually pay much greater prices for telecom and coal. Unfortunately, rumours spread by the BJP could not be countered by us.”

On the split in the party in Tamil Nadu and the parting of ways with old allies like the NCP, Singh said: “Today, like in 1978 when there was a split as some people left Indira Gandhi, people like these will go. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the political will of the leadership to draw up a new roadmap for the revival of the Congress party. We have to restrategise and reinvent our socio-economic programme because the demographic profile is changing.”

“India is becoming more urban, it is becoming more middle class. Even Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the underprivileged have moved into the middle class mindset. So, we have to reorient our policies, our organisational structure.”

Critical of party decisions in the past to get into alliances, Singh said: “In UP, we had a great opening even after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. But that fatal alliance we struck with the BSP in 1996 meant that in 300 of the 425 assembly seats, there was no Congress flag. Our presence was reduced to just 120 seats. That was a bad move. The Congress has suffered because of regional and caste-based parties. Even today, there are 80 MLAs in the UP assembly who are ex-Congressmen.”

“Bihar assembly (polls) in 2015 and UP in 2017 are our immediate challenges. There are no shortcuts in politics. With or without alliances, we have to prepare for each of these state polls,” he said.