Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that he was all in favour of holding democratic elections within the party.
“I am the first person that says democratic election within party is absolutely critical but it is interesting to me that this question is not asked about any other political party. Nobody asked why there is no internal democracy in BJP, BSP and Samajwadi Party,” he said during a virtual conversation with Kaushik Basu, Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at the Department of Economics and SC Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, New York.
“But they ask about Congress because there is a reason. We are an ideological party and our ideology is the ideology of the Constitution, so it is more important for us to be democratic,” he said.
“I am the person who pushed elections in youth organisation and student organisation, and got a serious beating in the press for that. I was literally crucified for doing elections,” Rahul Gandhi added.
Asked about his views on the Emergency, he said, “I think that was a mistake. Absolutely, that was a mistake. And my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) said as much,” he said, adding, “But there is a fundamental difference between what happened in the Emergency, which was wrong and what is happening now. Congress party, at no point, attempted to capture India’s constitutional framework. Our design doesn’t allow us that. Even if we want to do it, we can’t.”
“RSS is doing something fundamentally different. They are filling institutions with their people. Even if we defeat BJP in the election, we are not going to get rid of their people in the institutional structure,” he said.
Gandhi recalled a conversation with former Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath before his government was overthrown. Nath told him that senior bureaucrats in his government would not listen to him as they were RSS people and would not do something that they were asked to do.
“MPs from Manipur say their Governor doesn’t do her job, thinking that she holds an ideological post, not a constitutional one. Puducherry LG subverted democratic process openly, not allowing bills to pass as she belongs to RSS,” he pointed out.
“Democracy is being strangulated in India, there is an attack on the institutions, we are not allowed to speak in Parliament, there is no recourse in the judiciary anymore… there is a full scale assault,” he said, adding, “Modern democracies function because there is institutional independence.. RSS is attacking all our institutions. I can only do my job if I get support from all institutions acting independently.”
Asked about how he felt about the death of his father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991, Rahul said “it made me understand violence”. He added that he saw his father’s death coming as he was fighting many forces at the time.
Kaushik Basu was formerly Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank from 2012-16 and, prior to that, Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India from 2009-2012.
Watch the full video of the interaction here: