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Thursday, Jan 27, 2022
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Presence Of G-23 Leaders At Kapil Sibal Meet Reveal Crisis In Congress: SAD Leader Naresh Gujral

Speaking to Outlook, Naresh Gujral said that the meeting, which was attended by many veteran leaders, was reminiscent of the Opposition meet in 1980’, hosted by his father and former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral at his house.

Presence Of G-23 Leaders At Kapil Sibal Meet Reveal Crisis In Congress: SAD Leader Naresh Gujral
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral
Presence Of G-23 Leaders At Kapil Sibal Meet Reveal Crisis In Congress: SAD Leader Naresh Gujral
outlookindia.com
2021-08-10T15:05:52+05:30

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral was one of the participants at the dinner meeting of Opposition Parties hosted by Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Monday. Speaking to Outlook, Gujral said that the meeting, which was attended by many veteran leaders, was reminiscent of the Opposition meet in 1980’, hosted by his father and former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral at his house.

Q) Will your party be a part of the broader coalition against the BJP ahead of the 2024 General elections? It’s for the first time that SAD is participating in a meeting of the Opposition parties.

I joined the dinner meeting at the invitation of Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is also a good friend. It’s too early to talk about 2024. It is impossible to predict what will happen three years down the line. We have broken with the BJP, who were our alliance partners for a long time. As a party, we are free to choose our allies and decide the future course of action. Certainly, our party is not pleased with the policies of the present government.

Q) What was transpired in the meeting? Was there any talk of common agenda for the grouping?

All the leaders felt that the BJP’s policies are dividing the country and it is important for everyone to come together to defeat BJP in 2024. The dinner lasted barely for an hour and a half. Everything is not decided in the first meeting itself. It was a meeting of minds to discuss various possibilities. In the Indian system of arranged marriage, the boy first meets the girl and takes it forward. You don't discuss divorce in the first meeting.

Q) In the meeting, you commented that Congress has to be freed from the clutches of the family. How did Congress leaders respond to it?

I feel that if Congress has to play an important role in Opposition unity, it needs to ensure inner-party democracy. The party is in chaos without leadership. There can be no anti- BJP front without a single major party as glue. Otherwise, it’s only a pipe dream. I wasn’t the only person who raised questions about Congress leadership. Even Omar Abdullah and BJD also expressed the same opinion. It was the general mood, though I commented more bluntly. All the Congress leaders kept quiet.

Q) Was it a coming together of Opposition parties against the leadership of the Gandhi’s?

 That is not true. It wasn’t like that.

Q) But many G-23 leaders were present in the dinner meeting

Most of the G-23 leaders were present. That is a sign of the state of affairs in Congress. Even in Punjab, they have weakened another stalwart by inducting a turncoat.

Q) Were the Gandhis invited to the meeting?

I don’t think they were invited.

Q) The question often asked is “Modi vs who? Did the question of leadership come up in the meeting?

Yes. A couple of leaders raised the questions of leadership. The alternative will only happen if there is another strong force at the center, which could be Congress. But they have forfeited that position. Congress is facing a crisis because of the Gandhi family. The party is being run like a family company and many top leaders are unhappy about it. Either they are being pushed out or on the sidelines.

Q) Do you think Congress will allow regional leaders to play a central role?

Regional leaders are going to play a very important role, whether it’s Mamata Banerjee, M K Stalin, or others. That is going to be the reality of India. We have a strong party BJP at the center and we need to challenge them. The Congress could have posed a challenge to the BJP, but they are in shambles now.

Q) Punjab Assembly elections are around the corner. Your party is in direct contest with the Congress in the state. How will you negotiate such conflicts in case of a national coalition of parties?

In politics, there are no enemies. In Punjab, Congress is our main opponent. There are always contradictions in politics. The art of politics is to resolve those differences during critical times. I agree that conflict exists in many states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. It doesn't mean that one can’t talk to each other. Any talk of coalition begins in this manner. I reminded the leaders that the first such meeting took place in the early ’80s at my father's house when Indira Gandhi was ruling. At that time, all the stalwarts including NT Rama Rao, Chandra Shekhar, Ramakrishna Hegde, Farooq Abdullah, Harkishan Singh Surjit, Biju Patnaik, and many others got together for dinner. It included a galaxy of leaders from North to South. Subsequently, they met three or four times. Rest is history. This is how things get formulated.

Q) Do you think history will be repeated?

History may be repeated.

Q) People look for strong leadership.

I should remind you that the Congress-led UPA had once defeated former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too. It happens when people vote against governments because of their anti-people policies.

Q) You have struck an alliance with the BSP for the Punjab election. However, BSP was absent in the dinner and other meetings of the Opposition parties. Mayawati is not so vocal against the BJP these days...

I don’t think there is any contradiction here. The BSP is also fighting against the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh polls. I believe BSP leader Satish Mishra is not in town. I am not aware whether he was invited to the dinner or not. Mayawati is a good strategist and keeps her cards close to her chest. Why should she reveal it now?

Q) Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are going to be an immediate challenge for the Opposition. Did the leaders discuss strategies as all main parties are fighting each other?

In a democracy, these things do happen. At the same time, if the parties can group and put up common candidates wherever possible, they will do so. In the meeting, everyone wished good luck to Akhilesh Yadav to fight the BJP. We are hoping that BJP won’t be able to form the next government.

Q) Will, there be more meetings?

It was a beginning and there will be more meetings.

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