The former Congress president listened to the grievances and aspirations of the porters at the Anand Vihar railway station with rapt attention and wanted to know their demands.
Congress leaders and workers in Uttar Pradesh are elated that the Supreme Court has stayed the conviction of senior party leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case.
The grand old party now hopes to win a good number of seats in the state as part of the I.N.D.I.A (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls along with its allies like the Samajwadi Party and others though doubts persist about the longevity of the alliance. Senior Congress leader Akhilesh Pratap Singh is known for his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family. In an interview with Manoj Bhadra, Singh, a former Congress MLA from Rudrapur in Deoria district, talked on various issues concerning Uttar Pradesh, including the present and the future of his party in the electorally most important state in the country. Excerpts:
Q. What is the Congress strategy for the Lok Sabha polls in UP where the party set-up seems to be weak?
A: In UP, the double-engine government of Modi and Yogi has failed and now people are looking for an alternative. As part of the new I.N.D.I.A alliance, consisting of SP and RLD and other parties, Congress will emerge as the leader in the Lok Sabha polls.
Q. There are several doubts among the people about I.N.D.I.A and also about whether SP will give the desired number of seats in UP to the Congress.
A: Everyone knows that only Congress can successfully fight the NDA and throw them out from the Centre. Hence it would be better for the Opposition alliance to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of Congress. In UP too, Congress party’s mass base has increased under Rahul Gandhi and other leaders. Now no one can ignore the party. SP has to rethink about its future politics if it denies a considerable number of seats to Congress in UP. We hope talks will begin next month with the alliance partners in UP after the I.N.D.I.A alliance meeting in Mumbai.
Q. After the success of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, people are again looking at the Congress, particularly in northern India. Do you think it will improve the party’s prospects in UP?
A: The success of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ could be gauged from the fact that Congress returned to power in Karnataka. There has been a sudden increase in the popularity of the party in the pan- India context. In the coming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Congress is set to oust the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government and the party will also retain power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Thereafter in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Opposition alliance led by Congress is set to return to power after ten years of BJP misrule. In UP too, Congress will perform better this time.
Q. Several regional parties who are partners of the I.N.D.I.A alliance have already started questioning Congress and are not ready to spare seats in their states for the party. SP, TMC and AAP are some of the parties that have shown reluctance in giving seats to Congress as it is weak in the states where these parties are strong. If such a thing happens, the Opposition alliance will fail and Congress will be the biggest sufferer. Your comment?
A: The Lok Sabha elections will be held in the entire country and it is only the Congress which has its presence in every state. People also know and want that Congress should lead the Opposition front to throw out the Narendra Modi government. It is my firm belief that without Congress, these regional parties cannot fight against the BJP-led alliance at the Centre. Besides, it is only the Congress which can prevent the conspiracy of the BJP to polarise the voters before the elections. Hence it would be a win-win situation for the regional parties to go with Congress in the elections and accept its leadership. There is no dearth of winnable candidates in Congress in every state and the regional parties will have to accept this reality with honesty.
Q. Do you really think people will vote out the Narendra Modi government despite the PM’s popularity and replace it with the Opposition alliance?
A: BJP as a party is now in shambles with infighting and disputes. The Modi government is now only relying on polarisation of voters before the elections as it has failed on every fronts, including development, creating jobs and inflation. Besides issues like the recent violence in Manipur, communal violence in Haryana and some other places along with the raking up of controversial issues like the Gyanvapi mosque survey and court cases on Shree Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura will boomerang on the NDA in the elections.
Q. Recently Rahul Gandhi was given relief by the Supreme Court in the Modi surname case and his Lok Sabha membership has been restored. Will this issue help Congress?
A: Truth always prevails and the judiciary has again come forward to save the Constitution in Rahul Gandhi’s case. Our leader has been vindicated despite efforts to snatch his Lok Sabha membership and deny him the right to contest polls. People have now understood how the BJP is harassing the Opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi. Voters will give a befitting reply to the BJP in the coming polls and teach it a lesson .
Q. What is your take on the Yogi Adityanath government in UP which retained power for a second term last year? Will the recent success of BJP in the bypolls and Urban Local Body (ULB) elections give the party an upper hand in the Lok Sabha polls?
A: Within one year of the second term of the Yogi government, cracks seem to have appeared with the double engine regime having derailed and inner contradictions coming to the fore. Fighting between the ministers and leaders is now a known fact, impacting development works. Besides inflation and unemployment have increased the anger of the people against this government. The government’s control over the bureaucracy has also weakened as there is no permanent DGP for the past one year and one officer is officiating in 15 to 20 departments.The muchpublicised investment summit of the BJP government has fallen flat as there is almost no big investment so far.
Q. Lastly, will Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra be Congress candidates from their traditional home bastions Amethi and Raebareli in the coming Lok Sabha polls?
A: Everyone knows that Rae Bareli and Amethi are in the hearts of the Nehru-Gandhi family and they treat the people of these places as their extended family and not as voters. Though Rahul Gandhi lost from Amethi in the last elections, the family is still concerned about the wellbeing of the people there. On contesting elections by Rahul and Priyanka, it will be decided when the time comes.