“Will Congress MPs defect to the BJP once they win?” reads question number two of a detailed handout of questions and answers given to participants at a workshop at Indira Bhavan on Saturday for around 200 young Congress leaders from the 140 Assembly constituencies in the State. Under that question is a list of MPs and members from other parties who have joined the Congress in recent times, from BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule to Navjot Singh Sidhu and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh. It also points to the past of Union Minister K.J. Alphons, who was a CPI(M) MLA.
It is not enough to equip the workers with just positive data, but they need to be trained to address the uncomfortable questions the party has faced in recent times. This seems to be the mantra of the Congress in Kerala. Another question on whether Congress is a proponent of ‘soft Hindutva’ is answered with some history on how Nehru was never a believer, but respected all religions equally and on how Indira Gandhi included the word ‘secular’ in the Constitution.
The question “Is there nepotism by the Gandhi family in the Congress?” is answered with the fact that out of the 87 Congress presidents till date, “only six” are from the Gandhi family. The acquittals in the Bofors and 2G cases come in handy to counter a question on whether Congress is a corrupt party.
A long list of instances on the CPI(M)’s alleged closeness to the Sangh is produced in response to a question on whether there is a secret pact between the BJP and the Congress in Kerala. A list of political killings in the State in the past two years is also provided to the young leaders.
Shashi Tharoor, Congress candidate for the Thiruvanathapuram constituency, who inaugurated the workshop, initially mistook all the participants to be from his constituency, thus spending some time talking on his achievements of the past 10 years. When informed of the presence of the representatives from 140 constituencies, he quickly changed the content. “We need to think not only on the questions that people would have in their minds, but the questions that other parties will be raising. After the workshop, you will be able to confidently take on all the questions,” he said.