Weakening and disintegration of the Congress is not in the interest of India, says Bhupinder Hooda

A strong Opposition is key for a vibrant democracy; we need to introspect, says former Haryana chief minister

Amid the on-going crisis in the Punjab unit of the Congress, senior party leader and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda expressed concern about the party’s “disintegration” and the violent protests at Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal’s residence.

What are your thoughts on your friend and comrade Capt. (retd.) Amarinder Singh’s decision to quit the Congress?

It is a matter of concern when even a small worker leaves the party. Captain is a towering leader, who has twice been the Chief Minister of Punjab, deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha and PCC president of the State. So, of course, it is a matter of huge concern.

Captain’s case, though, is not isolated. We have seen senior Congress leaders leave in Goa, in Uttar Pradesh and many other States. Weakening and disintegration of the Congress is not in the interest of the country or our democracy. This is the party that fought for the freedom of our country. A strong opposition is key for a vibrant democracy. We (the Congress) need to introspect.

Do you believe the central leadership of the party faltered in resolving the Punjab problems right from the very beginning? And they could have been more clear headed about it?

I don’t blame anybody but yes it could have been handled in a better way.

This disintegration that you speak about did not happen overnight. Do you believe that it is the result of erratic leadership?

All I can say is that these are the things that need to be discussed within the party forum where everyone can freely express their opinion. The orchestrated attack on Kapil Sibal’s home is not Congress culture. Of course, there can be divergent opinions which can be debated within the party without indulging in hooliganism.

You repeatedly mention the party forum as the platform to resolve the issues. After Rahul Gandhi quit post the debacle in 2019, the CWC was thrown open to pick his successor, why didn’t any leader propose a name other than the Gandhis?

We may not have won the Lok Sabha polls, but nobody wanted Rahul Gandhi to resign. Congressmen wanted him to continue but it was up to him. After he left, Sonia ji took over as the interim President and she said that election will be held soon to pick the party’s President.

Do you think there is a need to build an alternate Congress?

What is an alternate Congress? Congress is Congress. The present crisis can be resolved through dialogue within the party. Yes, Punjab could have been handled in a better way and the present situation could have been avoided.

In the past there have been speculations about you quitting the Congress too. Were you ever frustrated enough to consider the option?

No. Rumours are just rumours. I have no grouse with the party. My only desire is to see the Congress in a stronger position.

And what is your prescription for that?

The change has to happen at the grassroot level. There should be fresh elections to elect members for block, district and State level committees of the party. The AICC delegates should be chosen through elections. This is the only way that everyone in the party will feel as an equal participant.

The exodus of senior Congress leaders is happening simultaneously with the induction of leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani. Do you share the fear of many others in the party of a possible Leftward shift in the party?

This is a continuous process in political parties where new people keep joining in. It is only natural. The so-called friction between old and new guard is a matter of fiction. The Congress has always occupied the middle path, neither right or left and we stand for one and all.

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