Six-term Congress MP Kishore Chandra Deo has for years been considered one of the best parliamentarians. But the former minister in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet (handling tribal affairs and panchayati raj) has now been defeated from his Lok Sabha seat in Araku and is in the process of shifting from the large ministerial bungalow in central Delhi to a flat in Gurgaon. In conversation with Saba Naqvi:
Why has Rahul Gandhi not become the leader of the Opposition? Is he running away from Parliament where he has never performed?
I don’t think Rahul would think Parliament is an irrelevant body or he would not have fought the elections. Probably the result has been a shock for him and he wants time to recover. No one expected this kind of defeat.
So Congress needs to look beyond dynasty?
The Congress was not born with a dynasty. It first has to come to terms with reality. It has to be run by people with strong moorings in the states. Look at the history of the Congress in Panditji’s time and see the strong state leaders and PCC presidents. It’s post-Indira’s time that a different tradition began.
Narendra Modi was a strong state leader before he became PM...
Let’s accept that Narendra Modi, Shivraj Chauhan, Raman Singh have all sustained themselves on good governance. As for our defeat in areas such as my home state, former Andhra Pradesh, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Bifurcation alone didn’t lead to this. In the Andhra region, the Congress consciously surrendered itself to YSR Congress. Many in the cabinet had dual loyalty. All this was conveyed to the high command. Two years ago, I wrote a letter warning the TDP could re-emerge, but no action was taken.
Do you think projecting Mallikarjun Kharge as the LoP is the right choice?
Well, he has been a two-term MP and has experience in the legislature. It has been a practice in the Congress for sometime now that the party chief nominates leaders. Nothing new is happening now.
Do you think your leadership has shown dignity in defeat?
If the Congress does not overhaul itself, it’ll have to lick its wounds for all time. Look at the AICC, no one is elected and many of these people have remained in these positions for too long. No one has been accountable for the success and failure in their states for two decades now. There is just a game of musical chairs between AICC and PCC between the same players.
Rahul tried to overhaul the structure....
Creating a structure is not that important. It is the people who form the structure who are important. Eventually, please understand that when he said he would have elections in the Youth Congress, people within the existing Congress structure spent their own money to make members join and then vote for the person who funded them. So when Rahul’s team would head to the states, they landed up with the same people in the PCCs who would send them on to the districts. Hence all the so-called revamp actually involved getting feedback from the same people who have been monopolising the party structure. Then Rahul depended on non-political people or entrants from other parties. We are seeing the consequences.