interview | kumari selja Kolkata

‘BJP-JJP govt. has been rocked by scandals’

Former Union Cabinet Minister Kumari Selja completes one year as the first woman president of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee this month. She speaks on a host of issues ranging from the party’s defeat in the Assembly election last year to challenges before the party to the performance of the BJP-JJP government in Haryana and, of course, the recent controversy over the letter by a few senior party leaders to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.


The BJP gave a slogan of “Abki Baar, 75 Paar” in 2019 Assembly election, but failed to get even a simple majority. It was clearly a vote for change in Haryana. But the Congress failed to make the most of it. Where do you think the party faltered?

There was a change in the organisational set-up of Haryana just a few weeks before polling. Just four months before it, the Congress had lead in only ten Assembly segments during the Lok Sabha election. After the change in organisation, we barely had a month. We came from behind and managed to get 31 seats. We lost a few seats by very thin margins. The BJP aimed for more than 75, but got just 40. I think that is more remarkable than to say that the Congress did not do well. The Congress did really well. The Congress defied everybody.

Do you think there was a delay in making a change in the State leadership. Had it been done earlier, could the results have been different?

These are questions asked later with hindsight. Political decisions are taken when they are. The result is the fact. People were not willing to give the Congress even a dozen seats, but we got 31. We were confident of forming the government. We knew the BJP was nowhere close to what it was claiming. But unfortunately, they managed to create an atmosphere with the media and other resources at their command and people believed them. They had won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats just before the Assembly poll. All this helped them reach the 40-seat mark.

The Congress does not have an organisational set-up at the district and block levels in Haryana for the past six years. You have been at the helm of affairs in the State for a year now. What’s causing the delay?

There are multiple factors. The spread of the deadly virus over the past few months has put certain constraints on our political activities. I will admit that this is the main factor. I will try to be more active in the days to come. It is high time that people committed to the ideology of the party and its leadership are given positions in the organisation.

Do you have any deadline in mind for it?

No deadline as such, but we are discussing with the central leadership. The process is on at every level. We will do it in the near future.

Your predecessor Ashok Tanwar left the party alleging that certain leaders had hijacked the party. Do you feel free to take decisions as party chief?

It is not like that. We do understand there were problems at that time. In the coming times, we have to sort these out. I believe personal ambitions need to be put aside and genuine and hard working people should get a chance. We all have been appointed by the high command and it is not like if there are constraints or I need more freedom. That is hardly an issue.

How do you rate the performance of the Haryana government?

Firstly, the tall claims of the BJP in power for five years during the first term came to a naught when they failed to muster a majority on their own and were forced to form the government with the help of a party which had opposed them. But I suppose political exigency dictated the terms when they came together. Now in the past one year, this government has been rocked by scandal after scandal. Where is the delivery? And then on top of all this was the COVID-19 situation and the lockdown. This government was always found grappling with situations.

Even after the lockdown, health issues remain, testing issues remain, hospital care issues remain and post-COVID care issues remain. They say one thing one day and take it back the next day. They were going to shut down all shops over the weekend, there was a massive protest. Then they said, no we would do it on Mondays and Tuesdays. What is the logic behind this? Logic should dictate that, not whims. Such whimsical and fanciful decisions of the government do not cut ice with the masses.

Haryana being an agricultural State, there is this issue of three ordinances. Haryana’s agriculture sector depends on farmers, labours and commission agents. They want to do away with this time-tested system which has served the people. MSP is a major lifeline for the farmers. You throw open the market, as you have done in every sector to benefit a handful of big houses. You don’t think of those at the bottom of the pyramid.

The Congress claims that there is resentment in every section of society in the State. But the party is not seen on the ground. Your comments.

We have held more than 80 workers’ meetings and protests over the past one year. We have been holding protests even during the pandemic. I myself have participated in these protests. Our MLAs participate, our workers participate. We have a protest in every district. Whether it was petrol and diesel or any other issue, we have taken it up. Those who say that the Congress is not present on the ground have their eyes closed.

Recently, 23 senior party leaders wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi seeking revamp of the Congress and the need for visible and full-time leadership. What is your take on it?

Despite the constraints, the most visible opposition to the government’s anti-people policies is from the Congress and our leadership. I think the way Rahul Gandhi ji takes them on, no other Opposition leader in the country puts them on the mat. He does it with facts and figures and the realities of the day. Be it economy, the border dispute, or any other issue. Ms. Gandhi showed a lot of magnanimity to allow six hours’ discussion on it in the Congress Working Committee meeting. Being responsible soldiers of the party what we utter should strengthen the party and not weaken it. We have to fight the BJP and its nefarious designs. So for some leaders to suddenly raise this banner seemed unfortunate.

The Congress’ political graph is on the decline since 2014. What do you think is the way forward for the party?

The Congress has seen ups and downs. But our workers are not deterred by poll reversals. The Congress is a mass-based party. It will become strong again because it reflects the will of the people. It is not like the BJP that tries to destabilise the governments after losing the elections and buys MLAs. The Congress takes poll reversal in its stride and all of us get together and work hard. I wish all our friends will do that. It is time for us to work at grassroots level and not to question the leadership.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 5:29:44 PM |

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