Digvijay Singh is the rare general secretary in the Congress who has been an active mass politician. Controversial, outspoken, political, he is also seen as someone who frequently engages with Rahul Gandhi. He spoke to Saba Naqvi on the sidelines of the Jaipur conclave. Excerpts:
Now that Rahul has been elevated, can he take on a figure like Narendra Modi?
What is Modi outside Gujarat? What is Modi outside social media....
But Rahul hardly engages with many people and the media in particular.
That will change. You will see him interacting far more with you all.
Within the party, will old-timers retire?
“I’d suggest to RG and Soniaji to learn from experience. Look at the leadership that emerged after Rajivji picked up.”
There may be a rejig in the AICC but the time-frame is unclear. In politics, no one retires. But new people also come up. I joked with Ahmedbhai that I read in an interview that you have an NGO. I can also run an NGO and we can all retire (laughs).... I would suggest to RG and Soniaji that people learn from experience. Look at the leadership that emerged after Rajivji picked us—Ahmed Patel in Gujarat, YSR in AP, Tariq Anwar in Bihar. I became PCC president in MP at the age of 38 when there were stalwarts like Arjun Singh, V.C. Shukla, S.C. Shukla. I learnt....
If you all retire, who will run things? In Rajiv Gandhi’s time, his circle was referred to as the babalog. Rahul Gandhi’s people too are from a certain background, with good intentions but not rooted. Are we going to have another generation of babalog?
There is no such thing as babalog in the Congress party. There are political activists from the youth wing, political activists from the Seva Dal, and political activists like Digvijay Singh. The newcomers will learn along the way.
Rahul spoke of building up strong state leaders. Does that mean you will project CM candidates in the forthcoming assembly polls?
Congress has to build up regional leadership. Wherever we have not performed it is because of weak regional leadership.
But the problem is factionalism in the states where elections are due. Take MP, where you were CM for a decade. The Congress is divided between powerful leaders, including you, so how can you fight the BJP?
There is factionalism even in a family and one should not make too much of it. Let us remember that in a party there is a meeting of minds on issues like ideology.
Is Sonia Gandhi retreating from politics?
The leadership remains with her but she will give more responsibility to Rahul Gandhi.
Why was Rahul missing during the youth agitation after the Delhi rape?
When a mob is agitating, can a person with high-security risk go there? Mrs Gandhi met the students at 1.30 at night sitting on a pavement next to 10, Janpath. The HM met another group. Next day they disappeared...so what can the leadership do? There also had to be some police presence during those days as 5,000 people wanted to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan.