Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has endorsed her brother Rahul Gandhi’s stand on a non-Gandhi president for the Congress, saying there are plenty of people capable of leading the party, remarks that were carried in a new book which according to the Congress were made in July last year in a different context.
In the book “India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next Generation of Political Leaders”, she is quoted as saying that Rahul was her leader and will always be.
Though the book was released recently by Oxford University Press, the Congress said Priyanka’s interview was conducted after Rahul stepped down as party president taking responsibility for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll drubbing.
Sonia Gandhi is the interim president of the party and there has been a growing demand in the Congress for return of Rahul as chief.
In the book, which features interviews with young leaders in India, Priyanka told authors Pradeep Chhibber and Harsh Shah, “He (Rahul Gandhi) has said that none of us should be the president of the party and I am in full agreement with him. I think that the party should find its own path also.”
Meanwhile, the Congress said the remarks were a year old and made on July 1, 2019 by Priyanka and its context today is to take on the vicious attack on India’s polity by the current dispensation and fight it fearlessly.
Party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said millions of Congress workers and leaders have seen that Rahul has led the fight tirelessly, undaunted by setbacks.
“It is this fearlessness and uncompromising courage that the Congress requires, workers respect and nation needs,” he said.
In her conversation, Priyanka said the presence of Gandhis in the party would impede the functioning of a non-family president only if her family wanted things to be that way.
“I think it would only undermine somebody if that was the way we wanted to be. But if we wanted to step back and give other people the freedom to take decisions and do anything, I don’t see why there should be an encumbrance,” she said to a question on Gandhi family’s presence in the party and its potential to undermine a non family chief.
Noting that none in her family look at things like that, Priyanka said if there were to be another party president, “He would be my boss. If he tells me tomorrow that he doesn’t want me in Uttar Pradesh but wants me to be in Andaman and Nicobar, then I would jolly well go to Andaman and Nicobar.”
“It depends on me – I could say ‘sorry I don’t care, I’m going to do what I want. But, I don’t think that any of us have that attitude. I think that we actually believe in the democratization of our party,” she added.
On her and Rahul’s role going forward, Priyanka is quoted as saying, “If we could enable that process of actually empowering other young people to participate and become leaders, then we would have achieved something. I see that as my role.”
She said Rahul in his resignation letter post the 2019 Lok Sabha polls had said that he thinks he should take responsibility for the last election.
Asked if she could assume leadership role in the Congress, Priyanka said her brother is her leader and will always be.
“Firstly, I would like to say that, to me, my brother is my leader and he will always be. Secondly, I see hundreds of people in UP and in different parts of the country who are very well equipped to fight the BJP. There are young and good enough leaders. I cannot tell the future, I do not know what is going to happen in the future. But, I think there are plenty of people who are capable to lead the party as well,” she said.
Praising Rahul, Priyanka said her brother had done a lot of work to democratise the party and had conducted elections in the Youth Congress and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) because he wanted to facilitate new and younger talent in the party.
“In fact, oddly enough, he was attacked from within his party for it,” she said.
To a query on whether she would give a shot at leadership if Rahul decides to stay away, Priyanka said she has her work cut out in UP where she has her hands full.
“It is an immense task, if we do manage to revive the party in UP, it will actually do a lot to the party in the rest of the country as well. It’s a huge task,” she said.
“I am at ground zero, and it is going to take a lot of time, a lot of focus, and frankly, I am quite happy doing it. I really do believe that if we do manage to build there it will be a huge contribution to the party. So, I feel that I would like to focus there and put my head down and work hard there,” she added.
On whether the Congress has lost its independent ideological vision that once distinguished it from other regional parties and what needed to be done to present an alternative vision for India, the Congress general secretary said the party has a clear ideology but that ideology has not been communicated with the same clarity to the public in a long time.
“I think part of that issue is perhaps the internal shift of some of the leaders of the Congress party towards the end of the last government where the ideological stances were diluted to some extent,” she said, adding that there was not much clarity as there might have been earlier.
Priyanka noted that there are different energies in the Congress party which has leaders who lean to the right, to the Left and those who are more towards the centre.
“It is not like the BJP where everything is uniform thought. There is space in the Congress party for different kinds of thinking, and it all comes together and everybody discusses and moves forward. I think where we might have failed is in the public articulation of that ideology,” she noted.
Asked how she would like her to be remembered once she retires, she said “I am anti-legacy. I just do not believe in it.”
Priyanka noted that she is in politics not because she has a legacy to preserve but because she believes that she better not ignore the privileges she has and do something.
“I think kids should not have a legacy. We should not leave them with a legacy of good or legacy of bad. They should be free. And therefore, I frankly need not be remembered,” she said.