Appointed general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh (West), former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has been tasked with the responsibility of not just delivering seats for the Congress but also-as party president Rahul Gandhi has said-ensuring the BJP does not gain from Congress candidates pitted against the BSP-SP contestants. Now campaigning extensively in his constituency, Guna, Scindia spoke to Rahul Noronha on issues such as building the party in UP, alliances, his idea of friendship in politics and the prospect of his wife joining politics. Excerpts:
By not forging an alliance with the SP and BSP in UP and fielding candidates in seats where the alliance has strong candidates, is the Congress cutting into the ‘secular’ vote?
A. It’s very difficult to generalise. Contests in a Lok Sabha election are too granular and I’ve witnessed three paradigms in UP. One, places where we have very strong candidates and it’s the gathbandhan candidate who may end up helping the BJP but where we feel our candidate will eventually trump everyone. Two is where we have a strong candidate, who will poll a sizable number of votes and we want to prepare the ground for the future. Three, where we don’t have a strong presence. There, the outcome will vary-what you are saying may be true or the converse.
Q. What is your view on Priyanka Gandhi not standing against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi?
A. I don’t think anyone should have a view. I think it’s her personal decision, taken in consultation with the party. We must all respect that.
Q. What do you see as the biggest issue this election-Modi, nationalism or something else?
A. The biggest issue is kisan, jobs and security of life, values and liberty. The reason why the BJP is floating national security smokescreens is because they have nothing to say on the parameters I’ve mentioned.
Q. One virtue you admire in your principal political opponent, Modi…
A. His ability to put in long work hours.
Q. Should the Congress be in a position to form the government, can we expect a 2004-like situation when the Congress president refused to become PM?
A. I can’t comment on anything that will happen post-May 23. Let the chips fall where they may on May 23, after that we can discuss the way forward.
Q. In a recent interview, the PM talked about his friends in the opposition. Who are your friends in other parties?
A. I don’t think friends are made on the basis of political ideologies, friendship is a meeting of minds. As far as the PM is concerned, forget about friends outside his party, look at the situation within the BJP-where are Advaniji, Joshiji, Sumitraji today? The people who built the BJP have either been cast aside or left. It speaks volumes about the kind of party it’s become.
Q. If the NDA government returns to power in Delhi, is the Congress government in MP at risk?
A. The BJP is an expert at murdering democracy, but the people of India are wiser than the BJP.
Q. The Congress has been slower in forming alliances. Is it in a position to engage with other parties in case it requires the numbers?
A. In politics, no doors are ever closed. But I don’t agree with you, we have allies in some states and in others we were not able to form alliances. I personally believe there has to be a common goal in terms of values and then the seat sharing can be discussed. Someone has to sacrifice the first time round, both parties cannot be equally happy.
Q. Your wife, Priyadarshini Raje, has been extremely active this election. How do you, as Congress general secretary, see her candidature in the future? What are her strengths?
A. I can’t talk about hypothetical situations. It’s a personal decision. She is a strong individual in her own right and fully capable of taking her own decisions. If we’re talking about women’s empowerment, the last thing a spouse should comment on is whether the partner is fit for politics. As Congress general secretary, I’d welcome anyone with a thirst for public service. A lot of politics in India today is about power. My politics isn’t; I’ve shown that in the 17 years I’ve been in politics and certainly in the months after the MP result.