Newly appointed Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Rai faces an uphill task of reviving the grand old party’s fortune in India’s most populous State. He speaks on the party’s strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, seat-sharing arrangements in Uttar Pradesh among the constituents of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), the candidature of Gandhi family members from the State, and a possibility of an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party. Edited excerpts:
The Congress is out of power in the State for more than three decades. What are your agendas to revive the party?
Our single-point agenda is struggle. Every challenge, however big or small, can be overcome only through struggle. We are ready to fight on the roads, streets against the atrocities committed daily by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. This struggle will bring the good old days of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
Congress is part of the Opposition INDIA bloc. What would be the seat distribution formula in U.P. in 2024?
The decision on seat will be taken by the central leadership. We want the BJP to be defeated at the Centre and U.P. with 80 Lok Sabha seats is going to play a major role in it. In due course, things will be decided. We, at the State level, are focused on State, regional and district issues as U.P. is going through a phase of anarchy and lawlessness with the high and mighty escaping on heinous crimes and poor people’s houses being bulldozed across the State over minor issues.
What’s your stand on caste census in view of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav demanding for it in U.P.?
Our stand is similar to our leader Rahul Gandhi’s stand. He also demanded caste-based census. We would follow our leadership.
You pitched for Priyanka Gandhi’s candidature from Varanasi. Would both Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi contest from U.P.?
We (U.P. Congress) are continuously demanding for Priyanka Gandhiji’s candidature from Varanasi, and we will work tirelessly to make sure that she emerges victorious in the land of Mahadev. As far as Rahulji is concerned, people of Amethi are calling Rahul Gandhi. I visited Amethi, people are missing Rahulji and taking a vow to correct their mistake by electing him in 2024 by a huge margin.
What about alliance with the BSP? Would Mayawati be part of INDIA bloc?
The support base of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is continuously being targeted by the BJP government. Incident of atrocities on Dalits are increasing and happening daily in U.P. It is up to Mayawatiji to decide which side of history she wants to stand. We will welcome everyone and anyone in the fight against the BJP.