Yes, it is indeed true that no other leader in our party possesses the same kind of charisma as the Nehrus and Gandhis. The members of that family had the ability to address the entire nation, cutting across all the regional, cultural and religious divides. It is a major loss. A void that is staring us in our face. But it is the duty of the Congress to provide a leadership for the country and protect the integrity and sovereignity of the nation. Though no single individual can fill that role, the Congress as a political party can still determine the future course of our country. And it should do that.
But the Congress is now quite a fragmented party, isn't it?
The leaders who left the party recently are true nationalists. They know their responsibilities. In a crisis, all of them will come together for the national cause.
Is this possible while P.V. Narasimha Rao remains the AICC president and Prime Minister?
It is no longer a question of any individual. The primary issue is who is going to rule our country—secular forces or communal fascists? The answer is clear. We have to keep the BJP out of power. If any individual stands in the way, then the party's collective will has to prevail. I hope Narasimha Rao will rise to the occasion. If not, it is he who may have to suffer.
Are you actually hinting at a coalition between the NF-LF and a Congress without Narasimha Rao?
I am not hinting at anything. The need of the hour is to form a broad-based secular arrangement to keep the BJP out. The issue of a coalition of any sort will be raised only in the event of the Congress failing to get a majority.
And what if the Congress fails to get a majority? Who will lead the government then?
A leader will emerge from within. In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi's tragic assassination, we did not project anyone as prime minister. A prime minister emerged from within. Hence, I am hopeful that once again an acceptable prime minister will emerge from within.
Will the Congress and the NF-LF be able to form a stable government?
In 1991, we were a minority government. During every crisis, someone in some party thought that it was imperative to save the government and we completed a full term. Similarly, a new government will serve its full term as long as we are clear about one thing: keeping the BJP at bay.
Are you happy with the functioning of the Congress Working Committee?
I don't want to talk about it on polling day. I will express my opinions very clearly after the results are announced.
Don't you think that in the proposed omnibus cabinet, regional differences would break unity?
I have known these regional leaders for years. I am sure regional issues will be compromised for the sake of national issues.
Are you yourself a candidate for prime minister?
I have no ambitions. I have already made it clear that I will do what the party likes. Whatever I do I must do for the good of the party and the country.
The 1960s was known for Kamraj's 'K-plan'. Will the 1990s be remembered for Karunakaran's K-plan?
Kamraj was a stalwart. I am a small person. But even as a small person I have my role defined—to keep the BJP out of power. I will be happy if I succeed in this task.