Jyotiraditya Scindia, Congress’s western UP chief, addressed his first rally in the state on Sunday. TOI’s Ishita Mishra queried him on a range of issues – from the delay in plunging into the poll campaign to talks on alliance with SP-BSP, and the strategy deployed by Congress to make a comeback at the Centre. Excerpts:
You are addressing the public for the first time in western UP when there are just two days left for campaigning. Why this delay? Will it affect the party’s campaign in this belt that goes to polls first?
Ever since I was given charge of the area which was only about a month and a half ago, we have been strategising on how to make sure that the correct blocks are in place in UP. To that end, whether it is with regard to alliances, candidates or ensuring that the party structure is robust, we have been working hard. I have a responsibility towards my state MP as well. The newly-formed government in MP has to live up to the expectations of the people and the party leadership in terms of results for the Lok Sabha. I am also fighting elections. So it’s a three-fold responsibility that I am trying to shoulder. There is no point putting a cart before the horse and go to the people before the party structure is in place before the manifesto is in place and before candidates are declared.
Many surveys have said that had the Congress entered into an alliance with the SP-BSP, the parties could have made bigger gains at the cost of the BJP.
Well, let’s not talk about hypothetical situations. The fact is that unfortunately there was no conversation from their side. There was many a slip between the cup and lip. We did reach out but for whatever reasons, it didn’t happen. However, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen in future. Maybe a post-poll alliance. The doors are always open. But now Congress is fighting on its own strength in UP and we are going to build our base for the next three years for the 2022 state polls.
Are the Congress, SP-BSP fighting for the same votes then?
This is not a fight for votes. This is a fight for ideology. This is a fight for our idea of India. This is a Lok Sabha election and therefore what we are going to the people with is ‘Our Idea Of India’. You may have a different idea of India. And it’s up to the ultimate god in democracy, which is the voter, to subscribe to either your idea of India or to my idea of India.
There has been a clamour for years in the Congress to bring Priyanka Gandhi into active politics and not just restrict herself to campaigning in Amethi and Rae Bareli. Now that she has, how do you see change happening?
I think she brought to fore a tremendous amount of energy, grit, determination and truthfulness. And I think it’s not an asset alone to just the Congress party but also to the nation’s polity.
The lack of cadre and leaders on the ground shows.
In the last few questions, you have asked me everything that went wrong and the picture that you have painted is certainly not a very bright one and to an extent, rightfully so. But now, there is an opportunity for us to gain back the trust of the people and so to me, the trajectory from here on has to be onwards and upwards.
You have refused a party ticket for your wife (Priyadarshini Raje) to fight from Gwalior. Why?
I have no authority to refuse a party ticket to anyone. It is up to every single individual. I believe that women, if not as capable, are even more capable then us men. And I do not have the audacity to even think of refusing a party ticket to anyone, certainly not my wife. It is her personal decision.
The Congress went quiet for weeks after the Balakot strike. Do you feel that affected the party’s momentum, on an upswing after victories in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh?
We were never quiet. Our president Mr Rahul Gandhi came out very forcefully a day after the strike. I am shocked that you have said that Congress went quiet! We have said that we support any action and every action that the government of India will take to ensure the security and integrity of our country. So we were very clear that as far as terrorism is concerned, as far as national security is concerned, we stand not as Congress or as BJP. We stand as Indians under the Tricolour.