Sheilaji is an experienced and one of the finest politicians of this country, says Pramod Tiwari.
Pramod Tiwari, MP Rajya Sabha and chief of Congress Coordination Committee for Uttar Pradesh, in an interview to Ashhar Khan talks about Congress’ alliance with the Samajwadi Party and says the BJP has sensed its defeat.
After the alliance, what are your expectations in the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh?
Well, there is a very tough contest for the second place in UP Assembly elections between the BJP and the BSP. The question is about development of the state. On this point, our alliance scores above the rest. All the key players in our alliance are experienced people. It will be their leadership qualities, which the people will appreciate. For instance, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has always fought for the rights of poor and downtrodden. While UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has come of his own in the last five years. It’s a winning combination, let there be no second thoughts about this.
You are so confident.
There is a youth wave in the state. The two young leaders have electrified UP. Let’s look at the BJP: there is tremendous amount of resentment in the cadres because of ticket distribution. BJP top leadership is flying in choppers and their feet are not on the ground. This is what is going to harm them. On the other hand, look at the BSP, the kind of people they are getting into their ranks. Now I don’t want to say much as the writing is on the wall. Can you imagine a situation where the BJP state president is scared to go to Allahabad because of an angry cadre? This has never happened before.
The BJP will have to pay heavily for the way it has sidelined its senior leaders. Sensing defeat, it has started going back on its divisive agenda.
The Congress had announced its chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit. Don’t you think the party was unfair to her?
Sheilaji is an experienced and one of the finest politicians of this country. Her work as the chief minister of Delhi speaks for her. If you go back and analyse, she offered to step back in the wake of an alliance taking place. She has campaigned extensively in UP. In fact, I was with her when we started our first yatra from the Congress office in New Delhi. She is a dedicated leader of the party and knows what is good for us. She only said that in politics things and circumstances keep changing very quickly and one should adapt to new circumstances. I could not have put it better.
By coming into alliance, do you think the Congress has compromised on its core values?
No, not at all. It was imperative for us to come together to stop the onslaught of the BJP. We wanted other parties to also join in, so that the alliance could have been strengthened even more. Be that as it may, we are a formidable force now with a presence throughout the state. Congress cadres are enthused with this development. Our core values remain completely intact. The Congress is more than a 100-year-old party and this is not the first time that we have got into an alliance. Whenever the circumstances require we forge alliances. This is certainly not the first and certainly not the last.
What happens to the promises you made when Kisan Yatras were in progress?
All promises made by the Congress will remain. There is no question of us going back on them. Our manifesto will shortly be released in Lucknow. You will see that we will have a comprehensive package for all sections of society. I agree we had promised that we will waive all farm loans; in fact, we had also collected kisan maang patras from the farmers, that promises will be honoured as soon as we form the government. Also, the promise of cutting down electricity bills of farmers by 50 per cent... We’ll keep all these promises. It will be a part of our manifesto.
What will happen to Congress’ campaign in the state?
Now there will be a different strategy, which will be put into place. On Sunday (January 29), we are organising a joint press conference of Mr Gandhi and Mr Yadav. Also, a roadshow is on the cards in Lucknow. It is important that a message should go that we are together in this fight. We will also launch new slogans, which have been coined after the alliance took shape. The plan is to put a joint campaign in place; the official programme will be out soon.
Will Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaign outside Amethi and Raebareli?
Ms Vadra is our star campaigner. She usually campaigns and looks after the parliamentary constituencies of her mother and brother. There is a huge demand from Congress cadres and leaders for her to step out and campaign. This decision will finally be taken by Ms Vadra and the Congress high command. You can see for yourself the kind of language the BJP leaders have started using against her soon after the announcement of her being a star campaigner for the Congress was made. The language used against her by one of their leaders is appalling. But what is even more shocking is that neither the PM nor the BJP president censured him even once.
What will be the issues on which the Congress will be contesting these elections?
Agricultural crisis has gripped the state and it should be our priority. Mr Gandhi met the PM regarding the agrarian crisis prevailing in the state. But there has been no initiative taken by the Centre. Then comes the issue of jobs for our youths. Development has always been the backbone of any of our campaign. We have always built all our election campaigns around this motto. The question we are asking the BJP is: What did the country gain post-demonetisation? More than 100 people died standing in the queues. All parameters of the economy have gone down. Job losses are at an all-time high. The BJP will have to take responsibility.
What are the chances of the BSP?
As I said earlier, the BSP is in strong competition with the BJP for the second slot. The first position is already taken by the alliance. I do not want to say much about the BSP, but you can see for yourself what all is happening in the party. Neither the BJP, which is a divisive party, nor the BSP have any chance in UP.