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Former food and civil supplies minister of Kerala, T.H. Musthaffa, 74, was suspended from the Congress party for saying publicly that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s behaviour was like that of a ‘joker’. In an interview with Minu Ittyipe, he told Outlook that the Congress was not a cadre-based but a democratic party and members had a right to their opinions.
Why didn’t you just voice your opinion during a party meeting instead of this public harangue?
If I had confined my opinions to the party, no one would have listened to me. Now it is being discussed by the party, by the central leadership and the people of this country. I think that Rahul Gandhi should resign from the party post and if he does not do so he should be removed. He does not have the maturity or the leadership qualities to lead this nation. Two incidents that I want to point out where he showed immaturity is when he climbed atop a police vehicle in Kerala and the other was when he interrupted Ajay Maken’s press conference in Delhi. Politics or prime ministership is not a child’s game. It is not enough to be of the Nehru family, he should also be liked by the people. Rahul’s team called the Rahul Brigade did not have the political knowledge or the intelligence or understand the people to guide him. They only had technological aids. Technological knowledge is not political knowledge.
You have always been a supporter of the Gandhi family?
I have known Nehru, have interacted with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. I joined the youth Congress when I was 13 years and have been with the party for 61 years. I must acknowledge that Sonia Gandhi was responsible for the UPA coming to power in 2004 and 2009. But she must stop promoting her son and should not give him responsibilities he cannot handle.
Has Congress taken any corrective steps to make a comeback?
There has been no discussion in the party so far. We don’t know where the leadership is headed and what direction it is taking. There should be elections in the AICC and there should be a new leadership. This concept of High Command should go and all decisions should be made by the Congress working committee and the AICC. Congress leaders should not impose their decisions down the throats of the party workers. The decisions should be taken after a consensus. If they don’t take corrective steps it will be the death of the party.
There is no motivation and the Congress is in a crisis. No one is doing anything to strengthen the party. The old leadership is gone and those who are left are in it for selfish gains. Everyone is looking for the growth of their own selves and no one is working selflessly for the growth of the party. Congress lacks strong leaders at the moment. Only sycophants are left and these people gain in position and power by being sycophants. There is no place in Congress for others.
Have you ever voiced your opinions in the same manner before and were you penalised then?
In the late 70s, when I was the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president , I had felt that Sanjay Gandhi coming to Kerala at that point of time would have not been welcomed by the people of Kerala and would have damaged the Congress so I had expressed my views at the AICC meeting and personally written a letter to Indira Gandhi. She had obviously welcomed my opinions because Sanjay Gandhi never came to Kerala. I was not penalised or suspended for expressing my views. I have always stood by the Congress even when leaders like A.K. Antony had left the party and joined with the Left. I think that Priyanka Gandhi has the leadership qualities, the charisma and the intelligence to lead the Indian National Congress.
Traditional Congress strongholds like Idukki, Chalakudy and Thrissur went to the LDF. You had said this should be investigated?
The reasons for the rout in these places was that the sitting MPs were changed and the people did not accept the new candidates. There were no proper booth committees or district committees to work among the people. The candidates did not come out to campaign properly. SNDP leader Velappilly Natesan’s letter to the sakhas not to vote for the Chalakudy candidate P.C. Chacko had its repercussions in Thrissur too. Vellappilly is a curse to the UDF. If the Congress had worked hard in Kasargaod and Kannur they could easily got those two seats. We lost there by a margin of 3000 votes or little more.
How did the BJP gain in voteshare in Kerala.
BJP worked hard for the past two years. RSS also sprung into action and they worked hard at the grassroots levels. The Congress did not take the BJP or the RSS seriously. When they lost the state elections in the north, the Congress should have had a plan and started doing things seriously. But there is no one to give them leadership and the Congress did not do anything. Even now there is no proper aim for the Congress.
What were the major factors that brought down Congress?
Under the second UPA, the petroleum minister Veerapan Moily’s actions of increasing the petrol prices one after another which brought about the increase in essential goods brought about a disenchantment with the Congress. The increase of the price of gas cylinders and linking it to bank accounts and to the Aadhar card increased the burden on the people and women were very angry. They must have thought if Congress came back to power the policies were not going to change. Adding to that was finance minister Chidambaram’s policies. The rupee fell, the prices of essential goods increased and the industrial growth came to a standstill.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print