File photo of Rahul Gandhi, Shiela Dikshit and Sandeep Dikshit (R) during a function to distribute certificates to the residents of 45 resettlement colonies in New Delhi in 2013. (Express archive photo: Anil Sharma)
The ripples in the Congress caused by yet another election defeat are refusing to subside. Arguing that the biggest challenge the party faces is the “leadership question”, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s son and ex-MP Sandeep Dikshit Wednesday accused senior leaders of failing to find a new President after all these months because they are “scared who will bell the cat”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dikshit said there are many in the Congress who are capable of leading the party — “at least six-eight” — and attacked senior leaders saying “sometimes you want inaction because you don’t want a certain action to happen”.
“I’m actually feeling rather dismayed by our senior leaders. They must come up. Most of them, those who are in Rajya Sabha, those who have been former Chief Ministers, even some of our current CMs who are very senior, I think it is time for them to come up and go the extra mile for their party. There is Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath...why don’t they get together, get other people around? There is (A K) Antony, (P) Chidambaram, Salman (Khurshid), (Ahmed) Patel...all of them have done great for the Congress. They are in the evening of their politics, they probably have another four or five years to go. I think this is a time for them to intellectually contribute...they can go into the process of leadership selection, either at the centre or in states or elsewhere,” he said.
Sandeep Dikshit said Rahul had asked senior leaders to select a new president but they failed.
Dikshit is not alone in questioning the state of affairs. Earlier this week, former Union minister Manish Tewari had argued that the party needs to think about reorienting its economic philosophy which continues to be “fairly socialistic” and bring clarity on the question of secularism and its brand of nationalism.
“The current position is that madam (Sonia) Gandhi is an interim president, Mr (Rahul) Gandhi doesn’t want to be president. So let us respect his position and carry on. If the Congress party at some point feels that Mr. Gandhi has to come back or wants to come back, opportunities will always be there. It has happened across other states also,” Dikshit said.
He recalled how (former Haryana CM) Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Sheila Dikshit were brought back to leadership positions in their states and said “it is not that the party will not use its good leaders”.
Dikshit said Rahul had asked senior leaders to select a new president but they failed. “It’s very easy to put your finger on any one leader. But what are the rest of the 30, 40, 50 (leaders) doing? You have been given a challenge. Our then president has said that he’s no longer willing to be president. Now the challenge for you was to get together, put people together, build a consensus and get a new Congress president. What this just shows is that at any level, we are scared of taking any decision...Is it that the Congress doesn’t have leaders, we don’t have new people?”
Sonia Gandhi made a comeback for the party but why aren’t the others performing, asked Dikshit. “They write articles, they write books, they mutter and murmur in conferences and in meetings...don’t you have the guts to come together and give something? What are you scared of... losing some Rajya Sabha (seat), losing some position? Some of them have three to four terms in the Rajya Sabha. A couple of them would not become anything but Rajya Sabha (members). Can’t they give something to the party?” he said.
Asked whether the leaders didn’t want somebody from among them to become party president, Dikshit responded: “Who else will it be? Somebody from BJP, CPM or Mauritius? It has to be amongst you. Or you think you’re incapable? Then say so, then you are incapable of being in the Working Committee, being in Rajya Sabha, becoming Chief Ministers, becoming state presidents, being patrons in the Congress. I think then you should retire. I think there are enough leaders in the Congress to lead it. Any Congressman who thinks we have no option, I differ with them.”
Dikshit said there are “lots of people who can fit the bill”. “I don’t want to put a name. I differ from almost 95 per cent Congressmen, 95 per cent Congressmen will say who. My thing is who not? I have at least six-eight names whom I think are capable of becoming Congress president. This is a process that has to be started ab initio (from the beginning). It cannot be something that starts by itself. Perhaps Rahulji should take a step here or somebody else who has credibility,” he said.
Asked why Rahul did not ensure that a successor was put in place, after leaving the post following the Lok Sabha elections last year, Diskhit asked the leadership to start the process. “What was stopping any of these people from coming together? They could have consulted him, Soniaji and many of the other senior leaders. Why didn’t that happen? What are you scared of? They are scared that ‘who will bell the cat?’ That is the difference between statesman and so-called leaders who are only looking for crumbs,” he said.