Guwahati: Pitching for opposition unity to take on the BJP, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram targeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying the seriousness of a political entity in combating the saffron party should be called into question if it is reluctant about coming under one umbrella.
The former Union minister was responding to questions at a press conference where he was asked about Banerjee unleashing a relentless assault on the Congress while questioning its ability to fight the BJP.
“I don’t respond to leaders of other political parties. All that I would like to reiterate and emphasise is that if you wish to defeat the BJP, either in a state election or in a national election, the non-BJP parties must come together.
“If someone is not willing to join the non-BJP front, one should question the seriousness of that party in opposing the BJP. If you are serious about opposing the BJP, you must come under one umbrella,” he said.
Responding to a question about a common face that the opposition would want to project against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, he said, people will make the choice in due course of time.
Chidambaram deplored the lack of ideological commitment of political leaders in the Northeast who take a position depending on the outcome of elections.
He said though the Congress does not rule any of the states in the region anymore, many of the current chief ministers are his former colleagues who might return to the grand old party if it comes to power at the Centre.
“There was a time when none of the states were under any other party except the Congress. The problem in the Northeast is there are no lasting ideological commitments. Regional parties tend to change their positions very frequently, which is unfortunate.
“If the Northeast must progress faster, their political parties must hold steadfast to certain ideologies. Whether you win an election or lose an election, you must remain with your political ideology,” he said without taking names.
The veteran politician refused to acknowledge completely that it was the result of the Congress’ failure to retain its leaders.
“No, it is a failure of political parties in Northeast who are not willing to stay on the path of an ideological commitment. It’s also the failure of the Congress. But the principal failure is you must stay over an ideology you have committed to.
“I can name a number of people who have been Congressmen for many many years and switched their ideologies overnight. They are chief ministers today,” he added.
Asked about the reasons for Congress’ repeated electoral losses, Chidambaram evaded a direct reply.
“We are not analysing the structural weaknesses of the Congress party in a press conference. I admit that we have lost elections. But you will also admit that we have won elections. During this period, we have won elections as a single party, we won elections in coalition,” he said.
He cited the examples of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa, Manipur, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where the party had won elections either alone or in coalition. Despite emerging as the single largest party, the Congress failed to form its governments in Manipur and Goa.
The former Union home minister said militant activities have increased in Jammu and Kashmir because of the the BJP’s approach to the problem.
“By 2014 (when BJP under Narendra Modi came to power), militancy had been, by and large, contained in J&K. All that has been reversed by the authoritarian, unilateral approach of the BJP government. The worst damage they could have done to J&K was to reduce the status of a state to Union Territory,” he said.