The people and the Congress workers have confidence in the Nehru-Gandhi family and that is why Sonia Gandhi was made the party’s interim chief, says Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
He also said the differences of opinion among party leaders over Article 370’s abrogation was “discernible” as the government decision “surprised” them.
In a candid interview with IANS, Baghel said that Rahul Gandhi had committed that he would not be leading the party in case of a defeat in the Lok Sabha elections and he kept his promise. “Party leaders and workers tried to convince him, but he remained steadfast on his decision,” he said.
On whether Sonia Gandhi’s appointment again promoted the idea of the dynasty culture, Baghel said: “The people have faith in the Nehru-Gandhi family. What others are saying is of no use. The fact is Congress leaders and workers have immense trust and faith in the Gandhi family and that’s why Sonia Gandhi was made the interim chief on August 10.”
Backing her appointment, he said: “Rahul Gandhi had asked for a non-Gandhi family person to lead the party. But the voice from across the country was for Rahul Gandhi. But as he said no, it (party presidentship) was again given to Sonia Gandhi, which she accepted after many party leaders requested her to do so.”
Stressing the contributions made by the Gandhi family in the Independence and development of the country, he said: “The sacrifices made by them can’t be ignored. The Gandhi family has led the party in difficult situations, be it the freedom movement or after Independence.”
Recalling the political acumen of Sonia Gandhi, Baghel said: “She said no to politics and (Sitaram) Kesariji was made the party chief. But she joined politics on the insistence of the Congress leaders and workers. Under her leadership, when the party faced a lot of leadership issues, the Congress formed the government twice at the Centre and in many states.”
“It’s an indestructible relation of the people with the Gandhi family and the trust that’s not going to wane,” the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister said.
On the differences in the party over the BJP government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A from Jammu and Kashmir, he said: “On the issues of Articles 370 and 35A, the government should have taken the opposition and all the stakeholders into confidence, which they didn’t do.”
“They brought the resolution on the floor (the Rajya Sabha) surprising everyone. When such things happen, different voices crop up.
“But when the same leaders sat at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, they spoke on the issue in one voice,” Baghel said.
“The differences were discernible as the decision was sudden. Also, the people for whom the decision was taken were unaware due to the lockdown,” he said referring to clampdown in the Valley and arrest of leaders. He also said the BJP had talked about revoking Article 370 in its manifesto, but “the way it was done is unconstitutional”.
On China moving the UN Security Council on the issue and trying to internationalise it, he said: “The government of India has to decide how it plans to defend its action at international platforms.”
On his government’s decision to increase reservation to 72 per cent, Baghel said: “The maximum population of the state belongs to OBCs, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. To bring them to the mainstream and for their development, we decided to raise the quota.”
The Baghel government has increased the reservation for OBCs to 27 per cent from 14 per cent and for SCs by one per cent, while not changing the quota for STs. Chhattisgarh has reserved 58 per cent seats in jobs and educational institutions.
Once implemented, the quantum of reservations will surpass Tamil Nadu, which has 69 per cent reservation. The Supreme Court has capped the quota at 50 per cent, except for states that have been able to justify their “unique” nature.
“As maximum of our population comprises OBCs, SCs and STs, we will defend it,” in the Supreme Court, Baghel asserted.