After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.
Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party’s strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
What is the Congress party doing wrong?
We have within ourselves perhaps far superior elements to take on conventional challenges today. But what we are not doing tremendously well is in the perception battle. Somehow, we have not been able to position ourselves as an alternative to most political forces operating today. What the Congress party needs to do now, I think what Rahul Gandhi wants to do, is to create an institutionalized mechanism for the party because this ad-hocism is not bearing fruit.
What does this institutionalized mechanism mean?
The idea is to empower the workers of the Congress party in ways that it doesn’t depend on individual dispensation. It becomes a structure, you are getting fresh ideas, fresh people and they are lured in not because of patronage from individuals but because the party offers that.
How would you be involved?
Every seat is different, every constituency is different. So yes, there will be some campaigning. Mr Modi feels that he can swing the eight states where the BJP has presence but don’t forget there are 14 states where BJP has no presence. So how many seats in parliament Mr Modi can get in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland Mizoram, Kashmir, I don’t know. The strike rate has to be 90 percent where they have presence.