Congress like well-established company with fluctuating market cap; BJP startup, says Jairam Ramesh

The seven-phase Lok Sabha polls will be held between April 19 and June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.

March 23, 2024 04:58 pm | Updated 04:58 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, on March 22, 2024.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, on March 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh likened his party to a "well-established company" whose market capitalisation keeps fluctuating and asserted that it will stage a comeback.

In an interaction with PTI Editors at the news agency's headquarters in New Delhi, Mr. Ramesh also dismissed suggestions that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma that was responsible for the BJP's electoral performance and stressed on the importance of organisational strength.

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The idea of a charismatic leader was a "dangerous concept" to believe in as one doing so, automatically believes in a "demagogue", the Congress general secretary in charge communications asserted.

Talking about the need for bringing in new faces, Mr. Ramesh, however, noted that this was difficult in the Congress because people have been in the party for long.

"It's easier for the BJP. Because, you know, the BJP is a startup in many states. You look upon the BJP as a startup. The Congress is not a startup. The Congress is a well-established company whose market cap (market capitalization) keeps fluctuating. But the BJP is a startup," he said.

"So, a startup can absorb a lot of people. The guy who does not get a ticket in the Congress joins the BJP. So in many of the states, I would say, the Congress' disadvantage is that it has been entrenched for decades," he said during an interaction with editors and journalists of the news agency on March 22.

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“One of the disadvantages of being entrenched is that one is not able to give opportunities to new people to come in,” Mr. Ramesh noted.

Asked whether there was a need for a change of central leadership of the Congress and why generational change was not taking place there, Mr. Ramesh said the Congress is the only party which has an elected president.

Elaborating on the point further, he said, "We tend to ascribe far too much importance to individuals... If you read the bible of Indian political science by Rajni Kothari, one of the points Rajni Kothari makes in that book is that there was a Congress system and that system first got broken in 1969 with the first split and then it got broken in 1978 with the second split."

He said, "You can have all the charismatic leadership on the top, but if at the district level, at the block level and at the state level you don't have these systems of mediation, of conflict management and of bringing people into the fold, then no individual is going to make a difference." "I am not a great believer in the charismatic leader business... it is a very dangerous concept to believe in. That is why I don't believe in it. If I start believing in a charismatic leader then I am automatically believing in a demagogue, then I am believing in a Mussolini (Italian dictator)," he said.

Mr. Ramesh rejected suggestions that about 40% of the country believes in the charismatic leader concept, saying that out of the 36 per cent vote share of the BJP, as per his analysis, at least 22-23% is attributable to the organization.

So, at least 70% of the support is about the organizational reach, strength and capability. Mr. Modi may have added a few percentage points, he added.

On whether Prime Minister Modi's charisma and oratory were making a difference for the BJP, Mr. Ramesh said, "No, I think it is the organisation that makes a huge difference. You can have all the charisma you want but if you are not going to be able to translate that charisma on the voting day, charisma is going to be of no use." "I think we shouldn't be chasing charisma, we should be chasing systems," he said.

"To ascribe everything to one individual that there is a super charismatic leader in the BJP and we don't have that super charismatic figure in the Congress is simplifying a very complex set of realities," the Congress general secretary said.

Asked if the Congress could hit a "circuit breaker" when the Lok Sabha poll results are announced on June 4, Ramesh said the BJP is doing the damnedest to make sure the Congress hits the circuit breaker.

"They have frozen eight of our 11 accounts and this would continue," he said, adding the Congress tax books from 1994-95 have been opened and fines are being imposed on them.

"After Kejriwal, they will, I am sure, target some leaders of the Congress... the opponent we are facing today follows no rules, no convention, no tradition and is ruthless," Mr. Ramesh said.

Refusing to speculate on the number of seats the Congress would get in the Lok Sabha, Ramesh said he would not put it past the realm of possibility that people would be in for a big surprise. He asserted that the party would surely stage a comeback.

The Congress had suffered a setback in the latest round of assembly polls when it lost power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and also suffered a crushing defeat in Madhya Pradesh. The party, however, won the Telangana Assembly polls.

Talking about the two Bharat Jodo Yatras, Ramesh said it had never entered his calculus as to what their impact on elections would be as that was not the intent of taking out the yatras.

"It just so happened that we won in Telangana and Karnataka but we lost in Madhya Pradesh and lost in the areas where we travelled in Rajasthan. In politics, it is virtually impossible to establish causation... I look upon the yatra initiative more as giving connectivity for the leader and collectivity for the organisation," Mr. Ramesh said.

The seven-phase Lok Sabha polls will be held between April 19 and June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.

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