Senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Friday asserted that the party has the capability and the leadership to reform itself from within, remarks that come days after the breakdown of talks between the party and poll strategist Prashant Kishor who had proposed large-scale overhaul of the organisation.
In an interview with PTI ahead of the party's three-day 'Chintan Shivir' starting in Rajasthan's Udaipur on Friday, Hooda, who was among the 23 leaders who wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi for organisational overhaul in 2020, exuded confidence that the brainstorming session would throw up solutions to all the issues facing the party.
Noting that the process of organisational elections was on, the former Haryana chief minister said the parliamentary board existed in the party earlier also and should be there, but added that it was an issue that is to be dealt with after the ongoing organisational polls.
Asked about the issues raised by the 'G23' and whether answers to them would be found soon, Hooda said, "This moniker of 'G23' has been given by you (media). Some of our senior Congress persons were of the view that the party can be strengthened with certain measures, we wrote about this. Some steps have also been taken."
"We are not against anyone, we are in the interest of the party," he asserted.
On whether demands such as setting up a parliamentary board would be discussed, he said, "Election process is going on, it will be completed in a few months, other things will be looked upon after the election. The parliamentary board was there earlier, even at the time of Indira Gandhi, and it should be there," he said.
To a question on whether the G-23 was in opposition to the top leadership of the party, Hooda said, "We have not talked about leadership, we have only talked about how the party is to be strengthened."
Election is on in the party and the president will be elected, he added.
Asked whether the Congress was capable of reform from within, especially in light of the breakdown of talks between the party and Kishor, who had suggested a drastic overhaul for the party, Hooda said, "Why not? Congress is the oldest party of the country. Congress has the capability, Congress has the leadership, Congress has the leaders. Congress has the think-tank", and it is capable of reform from within.
He asserted that the party was united in its endeavours going forward.
The Congress had said last month that party president Sonia Gandhi had invited poll strategist Kishor to join the party and be a part of its ‘Empowered Action Group-2024’ to evolve a strategy for the general elections but he declined the offer.
Within a few minutes of the Congress saying that Kishor had declined the offer, he took to Twitter and said the party needs a collective to fix deep-rooted structural problems through reforms.
On how the party plans to counter polarisation, Hooda said there is only one solution and that is to follow Mahatma Gandhi's path.
"He (Gandhi) was a Hindu and used to respect all religions. The country can only move forward by following his path," he asserted.
Talking about the 'Chintan Shivir', Hooda said six panels had been set up by the party in various fields that will discuss their respective issues and determine the way forward toward 2024, raising the voice of the people.
Hooda, who is the convener of the Congress panel on agriculture for the shivir, said the subject of agriculture has been discussed with everyone from farmer leaders to many agricultural scientists.
A draft has been prepared after talking to them and this will be discussed at the 'Chintan Shivir', Hooda said.
"There is an issue of MSP (guarantee), there is an issue of insurance, debt on farmers is increasing, crop has been damaged due to unseasonal rains, all these will be discussed," he said.
Hooda on Tuesday had met farmer leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yogendra Yadav and heard their proposals before finalising the agenda on agriculture sector at the 'Chintan Shivir'.
Asked about the possibility of an Opposition alliance to take on the BJP in 2024, he said it will depend on the situation going forward.
"Sometimes it happens that circumstances make an alliance. The party will take a decision after discussions with other parties on this going forward," he said.
Hooda also stressed the need to make the party strong at the grassroots level of the block committee and district committee.
The shivir will begin on Friday afternoon following which over 400 delegates will discuss subject-specific issues across six groups – farmers and agriculture, economy, social justice and empowerment, political, organisation, and youth and empowerment .
These discussions will continue on the first and second days and the conclusions will be recorded in the form of a declaration, a draft of which will be discussed at the Congress Working Committee meeting to be held in Udaipur on the third and last day.