Taking a dig at some of the G-23 leaders who have renewed their call for reforms in the Congress, senior leader and former union minister Salman Khurshid on Sunday asked whether those calling for organisational polls have got to where they are in the party in the same manner, and asserted that reform is achieved by sacrificing, not by suddenly questioning something that one has “taken advantage of” over the years.
Days after G-23 leader M Veerappa Moily stressed the need for a “major surgery” on the party to make it electorally more competitive, Khurshid said these “wonderful phrases” are not the answer as party leaders need to sit down and come up with solutions to the challenges that have arisen in the last 10 years.
In an interview with PTI, Khurshid also said that it was for Rahul Gandhi to decide whether he wants to contest the party’s presidential polls or not, but asserted that with or without being party president he remains “our leader”.
Asked about Kapil Sibal’s call for widespread reforms across all levels of the organisation and Moily calling for a “major surgery” on the party, the former Union minister took a dig saying, “I am quite happy for the major surgery but what do you want to remove — my liver, kidney, just somebody tell me what surgery you want to do.” Khurshid, who is among the leaders considered close to the Gandhi family, said the “surgery” should be done on the party but it must be made clear what one will lose and what one will achieve by it.
“These wonderful phrases are not the answer, we need to get to the bottom (of the problem), we need to get to the inside, before surgery, we need to do X-rays, ultrasounds,” the 68-year-old said using medical analogies.
The senior Congress leader said he doesn’t understand when people say “let us do surgery, reform, bring about a fundamental change” and wishes that they would clearly explain what they mean by it.
“If they mean that there should be a reshuffle and they should be given the top positions, then that is not reform or surgery. That is just saying ‘I want the job’. So, I think there should be a conversation,” he said.
Khurshid asserted that the leaders calling for reform should have had a discussion with other leaders as well.
“Why hasn’t somebody talked to me and said let us do this for the party?…(it is as) if only they exist and want reform,” he said referring to the ‘Group of 23’ leaders who had written to party chief Sonia Gandhi and sought extensive organisational revamp last year.
But since then, out of that group, Jitin Prasada has switched over to the BJP while many have apparently distanced themselves from the group.
Pointing out that the ‘Group of 23’ leaders, which included the likes of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Moily and Sibal, had sought major organisational revamp, he said they only said there should be elections in the party.
“Nobody is against the election, there should be an election. It would have been very nice if they had reminded us of which election they won to get where they are. If they reminded us of that it would be easy for us to understand,” he said, taking a swipe at the G-23 leaders.
“But someone who talks about elections who has never got anywhere with elections in the past I think is being a little unfair to us,” Khurshid said.
Talking further about the G-23 leaders’ demand for organisational polls, he said they want elections at all levels and “I just want to know — is that the way they have got to where they are”.
“Which party has elections at all levels in India? Elections at all levels in India, how useful, difficult and hurtful they have been, panchayat elections…We will have to have a separate election commission of the power that the Election Commission of India has because the Congress party is a huge party,” he argued.
There are many questions and leaders need to sit and talk about it, he said, adding that they certainly need not go to the press seeking reforms.
On criticism that the Congress is in decline as it is not taking the path of reforms, he said many people who expressed dissatisfaction have done very well out of the system that the party has.
Noting that every party has to reform from time to time, Khurshid said every reform doesn’t come by suddenly questioning something that “you have taken advantage of”.
“Reform comes when you give up what you have received…say that I need to make a sacrifice because I want some change to happen. Therefore, the first thing that I will do is to give up what I have received to make an example to people, otherwise people think you are being hypocritical,” he said in an apparent dig at the G-23 leaders.
“You have got something, enjoyed it, and now you want more and therefore you are talking about reform. Reform means when everybody has to sit down” and think about what is required, he said.
Asserting that there is no shying away from that election, Khurshid said it would happen but this is not the time to collect 5,000 people and get them to come and vote.
On whether polls should be conducted for the Congress Working Committee (CWC), Khurshid said the Constitution of the party will dictate what is to be done and “we will abide by it”.
“I want to know how many people who want elections for the CWC were in the CWC by an election in the past,” he said.
“I am waiting for my leaders to take a call, they know what is good for the party, what is good for the country. I am not in a hurry,” he asserted.
Khurshid also pointed to the impact of coronavirus on the party for not going ahead with organizational polls and cited the loss of senior leaders such as Ahmed Patel and Motilal Vora to Covid as reasons for slowing down the process.
He also hit out young leaders such as Jitin Prasada for crossing over to the BJP, saying they probably still have faith in the Congress ideology, but their ambition may have prompted them to make the switch.