The stage is all set for the Lok Sabha Elections 2019. While parties have already engaged in sparring with each other, the clash in Congress’ Mumbai unit made the headlines. While the elections are fast approaching, the differences of opinion in city’s Congress unit raised many questions. While talking to the Free Press Journal, Former MP of South Mumbai, Milind Murli Deora, has said that he is yet to confirm whether he will contest elections or not. He also spoke about the differences between him and Sanjay Nirupam.
Excerpts from the Interview:
- Do you think sitting in the Opposition for five years has helped Congress?
I wouldn’t say sitting in Opposition helps anyone. It’s not something which is advisable that you should seek to sit in Opposition to learn…but certainly Congress is far more rejuvenated as a party. We now have to come in power and the entire focus is on that. Both things went against us, anti-incumbency and Modi wave, in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
- What are your strategies for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections?
I am yet to confirm what my plan is: Whether I am contesting elections or not. Congress has said that I will be the candidate from South Mumbai, but I will take a call after I discuss everything with my leader, Rahul Gandhi.
- There were reports of problems between you and Sanjay Nirupam. What would you say about that?
Difference of opinions will always be there, but there is no infighting. And these difference of opinions will be sorted internally. But, now we have to work together, whatever the situation.
- Do you think problems in Mumbai Congress will hamper the party in the upcoming elections and will affect the election result?
Like I said before, I don’t think there are problems, there are difference of opinions, which exist in every organisation and they will be taken up internally at an appropriate forum. Things certainly do look good for us (Congress) and we have to take advantage of those things. I feel there is a better atmosphere for us now compared to five years ago. Now, people are not as enamoured by Prime Minister and are able to compare what happened during our time and what is happening during his tenure and we have to take advantage of that. As elections are fast approaching, we have to work hard and work together.
- Does Congress have a chance to win Lok Sabha elections?
I am hopeful and confident that we will do better than we did five years ago. I do believe that in 2004 also things looked very bad for us. And, at that time, Vajpayeeji was the Prime Minister and he was far more popular than Narendra Modi, but he still lost the elections and we came to power. I think there is a very good opportunity and it is on us to take advantage of that and we are doing that at the national and local level. And I am hopeful and confident that we can come back to power.
- Your comments on the Interim Budget?
I don’t think there were any major announcements, or any significance for the economy. I think there are serious economic concerns that everyone has, the banking problems have not been solved, in fact, they have worsened, the problem of unemployment continues to be a serious issue. We have growth, but jobless growth. And there are other serious concerns about the economy; there are problems with certain financial institutions which are sinking, then there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are fleeing the country, I don’t mean fleeing like running from the law. I mean that they don’t want to work in India or do business here. The reason is there is too much harassment, and instead of encouraging business, the government has curtailed and curbed business. I don’t think the budget was able to address the economic problems that we have been facing for the last five years. The next government, regardless of who comes to power, will have to inherit these problems.
The only area where the economy has improved is inflation and that too the numbers have reduced because the oil prices have reduced, but disposable income has also reduced. An average family is struggling harder now because the economy hasn’t generated equity for people. Ultimately, what matters for any household is how much they are bringing in and how much they are spending, and that’s not improved at all. The unemployment has worsened as the NSSO data shows – these are some serious problems. I don’t know how much the PM Kisan Yojana will help, I don’t how much Rs 6000 a year will help farmers. I don’t think Rs 6000 will prevent farmers from committing suicides. These are just small notional things, these are not going to help the overall health of the economy or make any political impact. The interim budget was neutral, with no political impact.
- Will you run for Mumbai Congress presidency?
I can’t say anything on this as the Congress party and Rahul Gandhiji will decide. I will continue to help and serve the country and Mumbai, that’s my primary objective and which is why I entered politics. Whether there is a change or not, we have to unite and work together.
- Do you think Priyanka Gandhi’s entry in main-frame politics will help Congress in the upcoming elections?
It has improved the cadre. Now, what impact will it have on elections will have to be seen. But the cadre are happy and improved all over.
- Has Congress changed under Rahul Gandhi?
I certainly feel it has changed; there is a cultural shift, and I believe that there are a lot more younger people who have joined the party. There is healthy balance between experience and youth. In any party in India there is a huge premium on age. I think it is important for us to respect elders and make use of their experience and wisdom and at same encourage the young people who have energy. I think Congress is the only party which is giving older and younger people space and I don’t see it happening in BJP, for instance.
- What are your thoughts on Rahul Gandhi’s Minimum Income Guarantee scheme? Or is it just another promise that will be forgotten after elections?
I don’t think it will be forgotten – we as a party don’t make false promises, we promise what we can deliver and it is has been promised after looking at all what’s doable and what’s not doable based on which it was announced. I do believe it was an important initiative and there are more such initiatives yet to be announced.
- Will Congress-NCP come together?
The alliance talks between Congress-NCP has almost finished. It just needs few more final touches. But the talks are 95 percent done.
- Will Congress ally with any other regional parties in Maharashtra for upcoming elections?
We are trying to get parties like Prakash Ambedkar’s party on board, people like Ashok Chavan and other leaders are handling it. So will have to see it works out. We will not ally with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena because we have ideological differences with them. And when it comes to NCP talking with MNS, they have not officially communicated any of that to us. But we have expressed our reservations.
- There is a point of view that lately there has been a rise in Saffron terror. Your comments.
I don’t think there is anything like Saffron terrorism or Islamic terrorism or Hindu terrorism or Muslim terrorism, I think terrorism is terrorism regardless of any religion. There is radicalisation in all communities, and, unfortunately, there is polarisation. When political parties are polarising people on basis of caste, the next logical step is radicalisation and its happening across the board. I can certainly say polarisation and radicalisation have increased in last 4-5 years in all sections of the society.
I think voters have to be very alert, and support parties which are focusing on development and not on religious issues. I always say that rather than debating on mandirs and masjids what we need is education and health care…these are real issues which matter to India.