Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit tells Ambika Pandit she has not stopped campaigning for the Congress in UP and insists that she has not retired from politics. Excerpts:
Q: After you stepped down as Congress's CM candidate for UP, why did you not campaign for the Congress-SP combine?
A: It is wrong to say I have stopped campaigning. Since I came back, I have gone wherever the party has asked me to go. I was supposed to go to Kanpur and Banaras but then I fell ill so I could not go. Now I am better and will soon be going to Banaras.
Q: How is the Congress-SP tie-up faring?
A: This alliance has been welcomed. There were some initial hiccups but all has been sorted out. This is the era of visibility and Akhilesh is way above everyone else. Mayawati does not have that style so she is there but not too much. BJP does not have a leader for UP. The PM is going there very frequently but everyone understands that he will not be CM. We believe Muslims are coming out very strongly with this alliance and of course the Yadavs will be there. Rahul and Akhilesh campaigning together has had a positive impact.
Q: Congress is getting reduced to the periphery in several states. This is happening despite Rahul campaigning aggressively. What is going wrong?
A: You see, we are going through change. It is both a generational change and a change in politics from what it was till a few years back. The political language has changed quite a lot. For instance, you would not expect the PM to say what he said about former PM Manmohan Singh. In this change of approach, link, language and relationships, Congress is adjusting itself. And please remember Rahul is still not mature, his age does not allow him to be mature. He is what... in his forties. Please give him time. Having said all this, Congress believes in development of the weak and marginalised. Rahul is the only one who has spoken about farmers.
Q: You said Rahul must be given more time. He has been around for long. How much more time does he need?
A: I think he has come a long way. He is not yet prime minister because that opportunity will come later but he is doing things. He is attending meetings and he is one person who is known to speak his mind. I feel it is good that he is natural but if some feel that it is not so then one develops it on the way.
Q: Don't you think it is time Rahul took over as Congress president? What about Priyanka's role in the party?
A: I believe it should happen this year. The party needs changes in leadership on posts that have been occupied for decades. The whole thing is being kept on hold waiting for Rahul.. and this should happen after these elections are over. As far as Priyanka is concerned, I must say she is very sensitive and intelligent. She is a fantastic listener. She has played a very important role in the shaping of the Congress-SP alliance in UP and she has done it very subtly. Whether she will enter electoral politics is a decision that will have to be hers and that of the family. We are all hoping that both Rahul and Priyanka take up positions in the party.
Q: What role are you seeking in Congress now or are you planning retirement from politics?A: Whatever I am asked to do by the party I will do. Why should I seek something? I have had a wonderful innings in politics... So, I have no greed, I am very satisfied. I will not say retirement, for if tomorrow the party gives me a role then you will say I spoke of retirement (laughs).
Q: What about Congress releasing names of persons allegedly named in corporate diaries?A: It was a brilliant idea to bring out the name of PM Modi but probably (Congress) did not fully appreciate that there were other names too, including that of your own colleagues. If you were downgrading the PM, you were also downgrading your own colleagues. What is the authenticity of the list?