India Insight

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

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.

Fresh faces, old issues in India’s new cabinet

Remember the Satyam Computer Services scandal of 2009? This was the story in which its founder cooked the company’s books in what became India’s biggest case of corporate fraud till date.

The scam exposed problems that needed fixing at the Corporate Affairs ministry, and after much delay the Companies Bill is ready to come before Parliament. The task of steering the bill will be handled by the new chief of the ministry, Sachin Pilot. At 35, Pilot is the youngest face in the refurbished, and not entirely young council of ministers in India. He also has no experience in corporate affairs, his earlier posting being at the communications and IT ministry. He will be forced to handle an important bill in the winter session of parliament while still wet behind the ears.

Four ministers held this job in the last three-and-a-half years. With changes at the top occurring at the least provocation, it is tough to say what sort of character the ministry might be proud to make for itself when the intersection of politics and business is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Who can really take any credit if things go as planned and who takes the blame when they don’t?

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

Here is the background, as explained by Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters: