Interview with Congress general secretary and the architect of the party’s poll strategy in run up to assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Digvijay Singh for Teekhi Baat on IBN7.
DS: Please speak about Digvijay Singh.
PC: Digvijay Singh is Digvijay Singh, but is in news more because of the UP responsibility.
DS: You are free to say what you want to.
PC: Today Rita Bahugunaji offered to resign, in your party, like in every party, there are camps, which are saying that you should have resigned, but you have not offered to do so till now.
DS: Whatever I have talked with the Congress president, why should I reveal that to people.
PC: You have spoken what you had to?
DS: I have done it.
PC: You have not told me whether gave the offer to resign.
DS: Whatever is the decision, which you will come to know from the medium of the official spokesperson of the party.
PC: In how many days would it be known?
DS: It depends on the Congress president and party.
PC: You think that Rahul Gandhi took responsibility, you also have said that it is your responsibility.
DS: The thing is that it is responsibility of all of us. The first thing is that it is not easy task to build the organisation of Congress in Uttar Pradesh. We got good results in Lok Sabha, and after that a lot of work has been done on that. By the medium of our campaign, we told the people of Uttar Pradesh via our campaign to remove the government of Bahujan Samaj Party, and we got success in that.
PC: You were saying time and again that you will form the government.
DS: But, we could not instill confidence in the people, that Uttar Pradesh Congress has the capability, strength, that they will be ready to form an alternative government to Bahujan Samaj Party.
PC: You are saying Uttar Pradesh Congress ,that means Congress party of the country is different, even though big leaders like you went there.
DS: It is natural. The issue is that in Uttar Pradesh, one the one side there is Mayawati, has a stature, one the other hand Mulayamsinghji has a stature, we could not project our leadership of that stature in Uttar Pradesh, it seems that this may have been our weakness.
PC: 20 years have passed since you went out of power in 1990, you had propped up Mulayam, because of VP Singh government, you made him, after that Mulayam Singh became a head ache for you. Don’t you think that so many heavyweights went there, you were in charge of the state for the past four years, you went to every district, did a lot of work, Rahul Gandhi did a lot of work, even after that the organisation was not ready, that means you are also not connected to the grassroots somewhere, you are not connected to the grassroots.
DS: In Uttar Pradesh, fighting with regional parties, from Delhi is not possible. There is ground reality is that till we don’t form a leadership in every village, block, settlement, tehsil, till then baat banegi nayee. Now, in Uttar Pradesh..
PC: How many years will it take, please tell me
DS: Please understand, when did Mulayam Singh start,
PC: Congress there in power for 40 years there.
DS: There were two things, which became the biggest reasons for our weakness in Uttar Pradesh, first was the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and secondly the 300 seats which we gave to Bahujan Samajwadi party, in 1996, we were on 120 seats, because of that the Congress leadership shifted.
PC: You are blaming Narsimha Raoji. When Babri Masjid was demolished, Narsimha Rao was there, when 300 seats were given, Narsimha Rao was there.
DS: I am not blaming anybody. I am saying that we committed two faults,
PC: Wasn’t it a fault to ally with Mulayam Singh in 1989.Wasnt that a fault.
DS: The issue is that that was also a mistake,
PC: It was a fault to compromise with Mulayam.
DS: Please listen what I am telling you. That time Mualyamsinghiji had become Chief Minister with Bharatiya Janta Party’s support, after that when BJP stepped aside, we extended support to Mulayam Singhji, against communal forces. That was also a big reason, and please understand one thing, after 1990 the emergence of regional parties, in this belt, which is known as cow belt, because we could not analyze the political situation there in the right manner.
PC: You are talking of 20 years, why don’t you agree that, in building an organisation, like I was made an editor, that I can make a newspaper successful in three, five years, after five years also if it is not successful, then I have failed
DS: Prabhuji, running a newspaper from one office, and in a state of 18 crore people, that is Uttar Pradesh, building an organisation, both cannot be compared as equal.
PC: Digvijaysinghiji there you had an organisation, you got prime ministers from there, big leaders like KC Panth, Tiwari, VP Singh, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who all should I name, all heavyweight leaders of the Congress.
DS: I am agreeing to what you are saying.
PC: Now Promod Tiwari is there, you cannot replace him.
DS: It is not a question of replacing him, Promod Tiwariji is a person, who has never lost an election from 1980 till now,
PC: All surrounding him lose.
DS: What I have told you earlier, two problems that we faced, but which are slowly getting over now, that was we couldn’t protect Babri Masjid even after being in power in the centre, number two, we fought elections after compromising with the Bahujan Samaj Party, because of that our leadership disintegrated. In the last vidhan sabha, the outgoing vidhan sabha, there were 80 MLA’s of ours in different parties, which some or the other time were in the Congress party.
PC: There are many people who are separated from Congress, they have formed governments too, that is a different issue. But you are not ready to agree that, that the Congress party has no caste there, nor leader, there is issue of Ram and Rahim did not work. This divide and rule politics that you were doing there, you enemies said that Digvijay Singh tried to divide people there, between Hindu –Muslim, backwards, and he failed.
DS: My biggest enemy is communal mindset. Against which I am fighting from the start to finish, we are happy that he communal mindset has lost elections there.
PC: I said that those who raised the Ram issue and Rahim issue lost.
DS: Our votes have increased, their votes have reduced, that is the difference.
PC: You are comparing to 2007.
PC: How many votes of yours have reduced since 2009.
DS: In 2009 the issue was national…
PC: Time and again you make us count 22 MP’s, but not the votes.
DS: The issues of national politics are different, and the issues of state politics are different. Let me give you an example, in 1998 March the elections to the parliament were held, the Congress party had bad performance in Madhya Pradesh, six months later vidhan sabha elections happened, I won the elections, Congress party won. And let me tell you today, that by 2014, we will get more than 22 Congress MPs’s from Uttar Pradesh.
PC: That you are saying from the start, first you said that a large number of your candidates will become MLA’s and you will form government, You 22 MP’s have won you 7 MLA’s, in which in Rahul Gandhi’s constituency only two have won, and in Soniaji’s constituency, not even one has won, when there were seven of your candidates there.
DS: The issue is that MLA’s face anti incumbency.
PC: Who were responsible for choosing them?
DS: We were there, I am responsible.
PC: You said candidates were not good this time
DS: I have not said that, I have said that the candidates were facing anti incumbency
PC: Anti incumbency, you have 22 you gave tickets
DS: Many of them lost
PC: The question is that even in Soniaji’s constituency nobody won
DS: I am telling you that the seven people who have lost elections in Soniaji and Rahulji’s constituency, one has lost by 500 votes, rest, seven, all sitting MLA’s lost elections.
PC: Lead is from 15,000 to 50,000, in many constituencies
DS: Yes, it is
PC: That means the number of votes from which Soniaji and Rahulji have won, and comparing to that if we take this vote percentage into account
DS: Prabhuji, a person is fighting elections for Vidhan Sabha, how can you compare him to Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi.
PC: Because from 1980 till now, one earlier time it happened that two MLA’s won from there. After that even if you lost in the country or UP, you won there.
DS: But that lead is not there, the lead which Soniaji and Rahulji get, they don’t get.
PC: Why don’t you say like Soniaji said that there were lot many leaders there, the selection of candidates was wrong. Many leaders means she was pointing at you, Rahulji.
DS: She had not spoken only of Uttar Pradesh, she had spoken comprehensively for Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Uttar Pradesh.
PC: That there are many leaders
DS: When she was asked whether there is lack of leadership in states, then she said that there is no death of leaders in our party.
PC: There are more leaders, there are too many leaders, to quote her exactly
DS: I agree
PC: Don’t you think that you could win in UP as Rahul Gandhi talked of development and other good issues, after that when Digvijay Singh and Salman Khursheed came, quota, batla house, they talked about creating Hindu Muslim issue
DS: Prabhuji, if you are saying this, then Mulayam Singh had said that they will give 18 per cent reservation. Please listen, he had said that if my government comes then I will take the reservation to 18 per cent. When they did not face an adverse impact then how we have.
PC: Because people believe him more than you
DS: That means that, our decision of quota within quota, was according to a well thought out strategy, because it was clear in the Sachchar Committee report, the representation of minorities in OBC reservation, that is even less than one per cent. Then according..
PC: People believed Mulayam and did not believe you, that means Muslim brothers think that Mulayam Singh is more important for them that you are
DS: Prabhuji, the manner in which you said, that you tried to communalize, that is why you lost elections, you intention was that. So,…
PC: Many people said that if Digvijay would not have raised this issue, then Muslims were with the Congress, they voted for the Congress in parliament elections but this time all of them went with Mulayam
DS: That is not the case, that is not the case, if you see, in the constituencies of minorities, Congress has got a significant vote. Where we used to get 500,1500,2000 votes, there we have got 25,000, 50,000 and 60,000 votes.
PC: You are saying that you got good votes, but the result was 28 seats
DS: Prabhuji, that issue is
PC: Jo jeeta who sikandar hota hain
DS: That is fine in your view, but in our view we have gone ahead, not gone back. And the other thing is that not only the Bharatiya Janta Party has lost vote share, their seats have also become less.
PC: Why are you comparing with them now
DS: They are national party,
PC: They don’t have Rahul Gandhi, they don’t have Sonia Gandhi, they are not having government at centre
DS: Our fight,
PC: Is not against Mulayam Singh, Mayawati
DS: Our fight first is against communal forces, and if communal forces have any symbol, that is BJP.
PC: Even now they are approximately double than you, they have got 47 seats. They why they are more than you, they should have been less.
DS: See their graph, please listen one thing, in the whole what we had said, we said that BSP will get around 80-90 seats, and it will be a big thing if BJP gets 51 seats, but the vote shift that we were trying for, towards Congress, that we couldn’t do, and went to Mulayam.
PC: It means that Mulayam has credibility, they can give a government, you cannot give,
DS: What you are saying is certainly true, but we said that you have experienced between 2002-2007, the kind of goondism that spread, violence spread, the way in which extortion and kidnapping became an industry, what do you want their government.
PC government, now in Andhra Pradesh people are leaving you, you have decreased in Tamil Nadu, in Goa you lost, in Uttarakhand you: In big states the Congress is losing ground, be it UP, where till you don’t increase you tally you will not form a
DS: Achcha, tell me where BJP has increased, where is BJP increasing, I am asking you Prabhuji, has BJP increased anywhere. BJP, Team Anna, Baba Ramdev said that such a great Lokpal Bill has been made, such a big thing was said, and Gen. Khanduri himself lost elections. But I allege that the media underplayed it. If a Congress chief minister would have lost, sitting chief minister, then media would have made a mountain,
PC: You will blame media, that Is fine, hypothetically, in Vajpayee’s constituency, if MLA’s would have lost elections, then it would have been a lead story, but the media has spared Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. It has not been overplayed or underplayed.
DS: No, no, it has been overplayed, but you underplayed the defeat of Khanduriji.
PC: Khanduriji’s loss was shown
DS: Lost, but
PC: Why do you talk of BJP
DS: Because our fight is with BJP
PC: The moment you lose, you start talking about them
DS: If Prabhu Chawla says that in 2014 BJP has lost, then I am happy
PC: No they have lost even in these elections
DS: And even in future, they will lose
PC: Now you are trying to collect people in the name of religion, but people are rejecting you. And accepting regional parties
DS: Regional parties have a limited boundary, if we have any competition, then that is with the BJP. And once Congress party gets more seats than BJP, then other regional parties support.
PC: There are some internal bickering within the Congress, like Sanjay Singh said something, that you had more leaders, diminished returns, one group of people also said that Congress will not get votes in the name of Gandhi. In Gujarat didn’t get, here also wont get.
DS: The first thing I will say, that any senior leader of the Congress party, should not make statements in this manner, we are studying, whatever he has to say, he should tell us, leadership, for that there is a format, forum
PC: Gandhi was a brand and such a good brand Congress was winning elections on their name till now, now from the past two elections it seems, some Congressmen also feel, what you do you feel, can you win elections using the Gandhi name.
DS: Gandhi brand, tell me from 140, we went to 168, from 168 we went to 206, where did Gandhi brand become less,
PC: In UP it is being seen,
DS: Even there we are increasing,
PC: You lost byelections
DS: As far as byelections are concerned, it goes with the ruling party, all byelections BSP won, and this time BSP lost. There is a lot of difference between a byelection and general elections.
PC: So, you think even now the Gandhi brand will work
DS: Certainly, it will do and will do better. Am telling you that in 2014 we will better results than this.
PC: Now your government is dependent upon Mayawati and Mulayam Singh,
DS: That is not the case, there are other regional parties with us,
PC: If these two withdraw support, where will your government go
DS: There is DMK, we have TMC
PC: If these withdraw support, where will your government be
DS: We have majority even after that,
PC: How do you have majority after that
DS: We have TMC, DMK,
PC: There has been voting in the last house, if they withdraw support, the you lose
DS: And where was BJP’s NDA
PC: I am saying, you are depending on them or not
DS: The issue is that the mandate which we have got, 206 we have got, and we need 272 for majority, hence we need 76, for that we have to take support of regional parties,
PC: Will you keep on taking their support
PC: You have taken sanyas of 10 years after leaving Madhya Pradesh, you are clean, secular face of Congress party, and now that you have lost elections, after facing defeat, where will Digvijay Singh be,
DS: Digvijay Singh knows his responsibility and abides by it. And whatever state that I am in charge of, there we have not come down but gone up, and in that increase, if my contribution is even a small dot, but I know one thing, wherever I have gone, Congress has not reduced, it has increased,
PC: Digvijay Singh is such a leader who sees a win even when lost. Move ahead slowly.
DS: I say that in Uttar Pradesh, the conditions that are prevailing, it is not easy to work,
PC: It was difficult for you, challenging
DS: It is a challenge
PC: You will keep on getting challenges, thank you for coming to our studio.
DS: Thank you, Prabhuji !