Pawan Khera is Congress’s media and publicity department head and a political analyst, columnist and TV commentator. The Congress spokesperson previously worked as Political Secretary and Officer-on-Special Duty to former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. As OSD, he was responsible for managing the political affairs of the Chief Minister and interactions with elected representatives of local self-Government institutions – the Legislative Assembly and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, in addition to party functionaries. He also handled media interactions for the Chief Minister.
In an interview with Nikhil Vyas, Khera talks about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress performance in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls. He also talks about the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections in nine states this year.
Q. How do you look at the Congress’ victory in the recently held assembly Polls in Himachal Pradesh?
A: The victory in Himachal Pradesh comes as a boost to the morale of the rank and file of the party. People are looking for a change.
Q . What is the impact of Rahul Gandhi led Bharat Jodo Yatra on the party cadre?
A: The Bharat Jodo Yatra has rejuvenated the cadres and supporters of the Congress Party. I see a sense of purpose in each and every worker, even in states where Bharat Jodo Yatra is not taking place. The pride with which they talk about the Bharat Jodo Yatra is worth watching.
Q. Can you elaborate about the next phase of Bharat Jodo Yatra?
A: The message and purpose of the Bharat Jodo Yatra predates the Yatra itself. In fact, it predates the advent of the Congress Party too. There comes a time when there is a need to rearticulate what you stand for. Bharat Jodo Yatra does that and does that very well. Post Yatra, there is a programme planned which is called Hath se Haath Jodo Yatra. This aims at taking the message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra down to the block level.
Q. What change will the Bharat Jodo Yatra bring in terms of electoral gains in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?
A: Although Bharat Jodo Yatra is not an election campaign, we are a political party that aims at winning elections to be able to put policies in place that do not discriminate. We may look like Tapasvis, we aren’t Sanyasis. Winning elections is incumbent upon several factors, organisational robustness being one of the most important ones. We will need to ensure that. Already, you can see how the Congress President, Mr Mallikarjun Kharge, has started reviewing and rejigging different PCCs.
Q . What is the reason f or the Congress’ debacle in the recently held assembly polls in Gujarat?
A: There are several reasons for the debacle. Our state unit is in the process of a seat-wise review. I think at the booth level we weren’t as alert as we should have been in order to stop the party machinery of BJP from literally capturing booths in the last hour of polling. Lack of resources to match the blitzkrieg of the BJP is definitely a factor that we must learn to deal with in every state.
Q. What would you say on the Congress’ poor performance in the recently held Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls as the party bagged only nine wards?
A : Delhi is a case study of how a party that was in power for 15 years can collapse the way we have done. But then, parties that aren’t cadre based also don’t take much time in bouncing back. Being a very dynamic city, Delhi’s response to politics isn’t exactly frozen in time. We need to bring some changes in the way we communicate with the city for the city to respond positively.
Q. What are the party’s preparations for this year’s assembly elections which are due in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Mizoram?
A: The party is gearing up to fight the Assembly elections and is very hopeful of winning them.
Q . How has the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress president boosted the confidence of the party workers?
A: We are proud to be the only party that has time-tested processes in place to elect its president. Mr Kharge’s life story is an inspiration in itself, for each one of us.
Q. What will be the main focus areas of Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?
A: I think our narrative has acquired sharp clarity. Whether it is the economic policies or the way we look at diversity, the comparison between the India of their imagination with the India that should be is very clear now. That also needs to be communicated clearly. The country is ready to change its government.