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Kishore Kumar Jha, a Congress veteran in Bihar, has been a keen political observer for 36 years. Moved by the Congress’s inclusive politics that cared for all classes, communities, Jha stepped into politics during the stint of Jagannath Mishra as the Chief Minister of Bihar. Oblivious of the high and low the Congress underwent in Bihar, Jha remained firmly with the party and the Gandhi family even as many stalwarts left it for better career. He has served the State Congress as secretary and currently is a member of All India Congress Committee. Excerpts of an interview with him by Chandra Bindu
Question: Congress has been the party that played a pivotal role in the Indian freedom struggle and laid a strong foundation for all-round development to enable India compete with the might of advanced country. But, the party seems to be grappling with identity crisis now?
Kishore Jha: High and low are essentials of a healthy democratic set-up. But democracy comes under threat when those in power start crippling constitutional and autonomous institutions and using them to serve their political interest. They make huge spending on propagating misleading and fake information to influence the susceptible minds. The Congress might be down, but not out. People trust the party, as, unlike its rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, does not sell unrealistic dreams. Its popularity is increasing under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. In many states, the party or its alliance is in the government.
The party is facing troubles in many states. Dissenting groups are out to queer the pitch for one another. Why is it so?
Look, Congress is essentially a democratic party. It lets the opposition within to air their dissent and resolve the issues through democratic process. Unlike the BJP, Congress still has many capable leaders aspirating to bring the party to the glory. Given the kind of freedom from the party high command, some leaders have become highly ambitious. Punjab, Rajsthan, Himanchal Pradesh, etc are examples. However, such trends must be curbed if we wanted to take on the mighty BJP.
In Bihar, Congress, which once enjoyed massive support of the people during the elections, has been battling for survival. How do your foresee the party’s prospect there?
Till 1990, Congress had 73 seats in the Bihar Assembly. Then the party took a suicidal step and tied up with Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which thrived on the support of backward and most backward classes—once the core voters of the Congress. The forward classes began distancing themselves from the Congress after its alliance with the RJD, which was dubbed as anti-forward outfit. The forward classes led by Brahmins got attracted towards the BJP after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s elevation as the Prime Minister. Congress never did caste-based politics and hence regional parties exploited it to their political advantage. The party experimented with various caste and combinations in Bihar, but it could yield desired results after 1995.
What’s your remedy for Congress in revival of Bihar and Hindi heartland of the country?
The states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are crucial for wresting power at the Centre. The party needs to take lesson from history and handover the command to a strong Brahmin leader. Brahmins are generally sober in nature and acceptable to all sections. They will be able to break the caste-based politics. Leaders like Dwarka Nath Mishra, VC Shukla, Shyama Charan Shukla, ND Tiwari, Kedarnath Pandey, Jagannath Mishra, Bindeshwari Dubey, Sheila Dixit, etc, brought glory to the party in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, etc.
How do you visualize the Congress’s prospects in 2024 Lok Sabha elections?
People of the country are tired of lofty dreams visualized by the BJP government and lies dished out to cover up its failures. They are anxious to give a befitting reply to the BJP and its allies for taking them for a ride. The Centre has miserably failed to handle the Covid pandemic and its impact on economy. Joblessness is all time high, and so are the prices of essential commodities including petrol, diesel and LPG. It’s high time Rahul Gandhi undertake a nationwide tour to win popular support. People will stand solidly behind the Congress.