Opposition has to ignore smaller differences and focus on bigger danger, says Congress leader K.C. Venugopal

Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification is a wake-up call to pull people out of their complacency, says the Congress General Secretary

Updated - March 29, 2023 09:18 pm IST

Published - March 29, 2023 08:12 pm IST - Sobhana K. Nair

Congress leader K.C. Venugopal addresses a press conference at the party office in New Delhi on March 28, 2023.

Congress leader K.C. Venugopal addresses a press conference at the party office in New Delhi on March 28, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

It is ludicrous for the BJP to claim love for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) when it ran away from implementing caste census, Congress General Secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said in an interview to The Hindu, where he also spoke about opposition unity, a house for Rahul Gandhi and differences with the Shiv Sena. Excerpts:

Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha seems to have given a leg-up to the opposition unity. Do you believe this will endure till the 2024 general elections?

Indian democracy is facing a serious danger. The way in which the Modi government is targeting all opposition members, misusing the agencies — ED, IT and CBI — and now taking the disqualification route, is alarming. This is an extraordinary situation. Therefore, every opposition party believes that small differences should be left behind to fight the anti-democratic, dictatorship. Mr. Gandhi’s disqualification is a wake-up call to pull people out of their complacency. I don’t want to speculate on whether this unity will endure or not, all I can say is that definitely the opposition parties are working more closely than ever. Look at the joint petition that 14 parties filed in the Supreme Court. The consensus is that there should be a unity for the 2024 general elections too.

Though, you say that there is a general consensus on opposition unity, the ideological differences are difficult to ignore. The latest example was Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) reaction to Mr. Gandhi’s Savarkar remarks.

The opposition is not a monolith. In coalition politics, there will be different point of views and ideologies. When we are facing a bigger danger, we have to be focused on that. And this is not unusual, look at the Congress and the Left parties, we can’t walk together in Kerala, but here in Parliament, we are standing shoulder to shoulder against the BJP government here.

But have the differences between you and Shiv Sena settled?

I have answered it already. Every party has its own ideology — which is non-negotiable. When we formed the coalition government in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena, there were questions, but we worked out a common minimum programme to come together. We have to respect each other’s ideologies; we should not hurt anyone’s sentiment.

What will be Rahul Gandhi’s new address?

You people are underestimating Rahul Gandhi. And this is largely because of the Sangh Parivar’s vicious campaign against him. Those who walked along with him and interacted with him during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Kanniyakumari to Kashmir, have seen the depth of his compassion and intellect. The yatra was a setback for the BJP’s malicious campaign against him and this is worrying them. As far as the house is concerned, he has already started packing his house, whatever little worldly possession he has. Several leaders, party workers and the public at large have opened their doors for him. This is hardly an issue for him.

After Mr. Gandhi’s conviction in the criminal defamation case, the BJP has initiated a campaign that the Congress and Mr. Gandhi especially is “anti-OBC”. Don’t you think the party has failed to acknowledge the issue?

It is absolutely ludicrous for a political party, that cannot conduct caste census despite persistent demand, to claim love for OBCs. All our three Chief Ministers are from the OBC community, so we don’t really need to be lectured by anyone. Our campaign in Karnataka is led by Siddaramaiah, a stalwart from the OBC community. The BJP plays divisive caste-based politics to further its political agenda. The context of Mr. Gandhi’s statement was clear, he talked about Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Lalit Modi... it was aimed at the corrupt practices of this government. The BJP allowed these people who looted money from nationalised banks to flee and now is scared of people questioning them.

This is a crucial year for Congress with elections due in multiple States. The question is will you be able to defend your government in Rajasthan, considering the party has failed to settle the dispute between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former State unit chief Sachin Pilot.

Internal differences between the leaders is not unique to the Congress. No one speaks about the power struggle going on within the BJP. Of course, there are differences within the Rajasthan Congress, certainly, whenever the high command will take a final call, everyone will fall in line. We are working to resolve the differences at the earliest and we are hopeful that our campaign will go on smoothly.

In Raipur plenary a host of decisions were taken. When will they be implemented? When is the Congress Working Committee going to come?

We have taken several revolutionary steps in Raipur, which the media did not highlight. For a political party to reserve 50% of its positions for those under 50 years, it is one of the biggest reformatory steps taken in a recent time by any political party. And 50% reservation for SC/ST/OBC/minority is also a landmark step. We need time to implement such sweeping changes, and it really can’t be done overnight. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge is on the job.

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