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Many 'Positive Changes' in Party Thanks to 'G-23', Says Congressman Sandeep Dikshit

© Photo : Socia mediaCongress politician Sandeep Dikshit
Congress politician Sandeep Dikshit - Sputnik India, 1920, 28.12.2022
On the anniversary of Congress' foundation, 'G-23' politician Sandeep Dikshit speaks to Sputnik about the party's political future and aspirations.
A two-term Member of Parliament (MP), Congress politician Sandeep Dikshit was among 23 senior party members, known as 'G-23', who wrote a letter to the party leadership last August demanding an overhaul of the organization to revive India's oldest political party.
Dikshit spoke to Sputnik ahead of celebrations for Congress' 138th Founding Day on Wednesday 28 December. The 'Bharat Jodo' Yatra (Unite India campaign) is also in full swing, headed by Rahul Gandhi, the party's former chief.
Sputnik: Last August, you, along with 22 other senior Congress politicians, called for an organizational overhaul of the party to reinvigorate it. You claimed that the party was being run by a small coterie of individuals loyal to the Gandhi family. Considering that the party has since elected a full-fledged president, to what extent have your demands been answered?
Sandeep Dikshit: A lot of issues we raised in that letter have been addressed, but several issues have yet to be tackled.
Let’s be clear about one thing. The letter we wrote was meant to usher in changes in the Congress so that the party could emerge as politically more resilient. It was a well-intentioned letter and we never meant to raise a flag of rebellion against the party leadership.
But the problem is that when you shine a light on certain shortcomings in an organization as we did, the people who are responsible for having caused the problems are likely to take offense.
Certain politicians in Congress tried to label us as "anti-Congress" and "pro-BJP" for raising these issues.

Since we wrote that letter, Congress has formed new committees to carry out its day-to-day work, it has held elections for the post of party president and made many other changes. People are saying that Congress has introduced many changes that nobody thought possible. To a large degree, these positive changes are a direct result of the letter written by the G-23 leaders.

However, there are several things that we still want the party to do so we can emerge as a politically more powerful force before the next general election.
Sputnik: Several BJP politicians and others have predicted that Congress will be wiped out from Indian politics in the next few years. You have lost back-to-back national elections in 2014 and 2019 and suffered electoral losses in several state elections. How crucial is the 2024 election to Congress' survival?
Dikshit: Every election is an important election as it sets the direction the nation will take for the next five years.
A major issue right now is how several big industrial houses are being allowed to establish a monopoly in various sectors of the economy. We have a growing chasm between rich and poor - it feels as though the poor and middle-class don’t have any ownership rights in the country.
If such economic monopolization is allowed to continue then that would directly challenge the ideals of our country’s founding fathers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who wanted every Indian, regardless of economic status or religion, to have an equal stake in the country’s future and its polity.
Sputnik: So, what would you say about the future of the Congress Party? We are seeing that many smaller parties such as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are making electoral gains and eating into the vote share of your party.
Dikshit: There is nothing new in that. Even in the past, many smaller parties have been propped up to weaken the Congress party. The "third front" (an informal grouping of non-Congress, non-BJP parties) has always served to weaken Congress. But Congress has always emerged stronger and that’s what will happen this time as well.
Sputnik: Rahul Gandhi is perhaps viewed as the most hopeful party leader by many Congress politicians and ground workers. However, the party lost two elections in a row when he campaigned at the head of the party. Do you still consider him a challenger to Prime Minister Modi in 2024?
Dikshit: Tell me the name of any other opposition leader in the country who is able to attract thousands of people while walking the streets, as we all are witnessing in the case of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.
We have seen that thousands have come out in support of Rahul Gandhi even in states where the Congress party is not in power.
From all that we have seen during Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is still the most popular face in the Congress Party and the overall opposition. Yes, we lost in 2014 and 2019, but the circumstances back then were different. Things will be different in 2024.
Sputnik: Secularism is one of the founding tenets of the Congress party. Do you feel that Indians in general are becoming more assertive about their Hindu identity in public life, which may challenge the very concept of secularism?
Dikshit: I would say that the concept of secularism in government policies and public discourse, which has served our country well for decades, is now being challenged by the policies of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other Hindu nationalist groups.
The general population is being misled on major issues of the day and their attention is being diverted from these issues, be it inflation or unemployment, to communal issues that have the potential to create tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

However, religion has always been an emotive issue for the Indian public, and when religious tension is whipped up for political purposes, it has always served as a means of dividing society. So, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are doing nothing new.

Parties such as ours don’t have to worry about this trend. We have always believed in the secular nature of Indian politics. Congress should engage with the people on these issues and try to emphasize the benefits of secularism to the people of the country.
Although there is nothing wrong about the growing Hindu consciousness in the society, people must be told about the pros and cons of such a policy.
It must be pointed out to voters that India, as a nation, has fared well with its ideology of secularism.
One big question that we have asked the RSS and affiliated groups time and again is how exactly will the creation of a ‘Hindu Rashtra' (Hindu nation) help in reducing poverty, unemployment, crime and tackling other issues affecting the day-to-day lives of the general public.
The view and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.