The Congress pledges to fight against the Left parties, the BJP and the regional parties together. Given your present strength, is it not an absurd call?
It is not something we claim we will achieve instantly. What we have stated is that regionalism, casteism and communalism divide society. So do communists, votaries of the class struggle. We have pledged to fight against all of them. We know it might be a long-drawn struggle.
But is it not a contradiction that you support a government with Left and regional parties and yet promise to fight it?
No. As the most important nationalist party, we know the national and international repercussions an absence of government might bring in. But we also know that at times, a supportive role harms our (Congress) interest as we will
be seen supporting the government's failure or lack of direction as well. We want to cautiously keep assessing all this.
The Calcutta plenary, mainly the CWC election, has brought to the fore the rift between Kesri and you. Won't that weaken the party?
In the Congress, differences of opinion have been expressed—like the verbal exchanges between Sardar Patel and Nehru—on many issues. Dissent should not be crushed, but contained democratically. As far as the CWC election is concerned, it is a mandate of the AICC delegates and it should be honoured. Kesri, undoubtedly is the leader, and I am not challenging it.
What do you make of Sonia Gandhi's presence at the Calcutta plenary? And what role do you envisage for her?
The entire country welcomed her presence at the plenary, not only the Congress. The family she represents today is above caste, region and religion. It is entirely up to her to decide what role she wants to play in the party. But Congress workers will happily accept her decision in favour of a more active role.