Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee Chief, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, 52, has been facing stiff opposition from six-time former Congress Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, 84, for long now.
Undeterred, however, Sukhu’s moves on with his long organisational experience and strong back-up in Congress high command in Delhi.
Three-time MLA from Nadaun in Hamirpur, he has proved a hard nut to crack as he continues his second stint as state Congress Chief.
Sukhu talked about Congress politics and the issues in 2019 Lok Sabha polls in an interview with Archana Phull from The Statesman in Shimla.
The follwing are the excerpts:
Q: Why does Virbhadra Singh oppose you so much?
You can’t please everyone, when you are heading an organisation. You have to take decisions and do justice to your duty.
You have to take along people to strengthen the organisation, which, sometimes, the established leaders don’t like.
When the established leadership wants that you should not call spade a spade and that you should not work independently, it leads to confrontation.
Q: But he says that the state Congress president should be elected, not nominated (like you)?
Every state Congress president is elected like Virbhadra Singh was. We both came from the same process and same system of appointment.
Q: Did you face more problems because of your ordinary and non-political background?
Yes, I had to struggle at every step for survival in politics. The elites and those with political backing find their way easily, even in electoral politics. But the hard work and loyalty to organisation paid me off.
Congress president, Rahul Gandhi wants to bring the ordinary workers to the fore and that’s why he picked me up for the top job.
I was elevated as state Congress president in 2013 even after I lost the Assembly poll. The fact that I rose from struggle, not ‘power driven politics’, is my strength.
Q: How has been your stint as PCC chief?
Full of challenges. It was a tough task to carve out organisational districts and restructure the organisation right to block level across the state for the first time, which none had tried to do earlier.
I took along people in my team and had to face opposition for this many times, but I did not bother. The organisational perception matters more than the individuals.
Q: Congress lost 2017 Assembly polls under your President ship in Himachal?
The role of organisation is different when the party is in opposition. When the party is in power, the perception of voters is about government. The government performance and governance matter a lot then.
The organisation’s duty is to keep the workers together and we did that. There may be some shortcomings in governance that Congress lagged behind.
Q: Has Congress party picked up in Opposition?
Yes, we have done active work on ground in the first seven months of the government and have consolidated our position.
Raising various issues against the government. Our programme ‘Hisab Dey Sansad, Jawab dey Sansad’, where we are asking BJP MPs to come out with their performance on ground, has been a hit.
Q: Do you think that like BJP, the era belongs to youngsters in Congress in HP?
Transition is a part of politics and a continuous process. In Congress, the younger leadership has come up right from the block to state level in Himachal.
Q: Are the established leaders resenting the phenomenon?
It is natural. But things will ultimately settle down.
Q: What about infighting in Congress?
Ninety-nine per cent of Congress is united in Himachal and is taking on the government collectively. Of late, even former CM, Virbhadra Singh has started sharing stage with me.
Q: How difficult is the Lok Sabha poll, 2019 for Congress?
We are geared up to turn the tables. The BJP fought the 2014 Lok Sabha poll based on lies, false promises and emotional exploitation of youth, farmers and women.
The Modi government showed dreams of employment to the youth, income to farmers and price control to the women-But did nothing to fulfil that.
2019 poll would be difficult for Bharatiya Janata Party as Modi government will now have to give an account of its performance. The propaganda won’t serve the purpose. They will also have to come clear on multi-crore Rafale deal.
Q: What about the state government’s performance?
Bad. The government has a myopic vision and lacks administrative acumen. In its seven months rule, Shimla got defamed nationally and internationally for the worst water crisis.
The government woke up only when people took to streets at night. The Kasauli incident was unprecedented where two people died because of lack of official preparedness while implementing Supreme Court orders on demolition of unauthorised buildings.
The government took action on District Police chief and did not say anything to SDM (Sub Divisional Magistrate). The crime rate has increased.
The menace of drugs is going out of hands, as 27 per cent youths are affected by this. CM, Jai Ram Thakur in his own style admits and accepts, with no focus on solutions.