New Delhi, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s remarks Tuesday that a lack of ideological direction plagued the Congress and that Rahul Gandhi was performing only a cameo role triggered a sharp response from the BJP and Left, which said this was proof that the country was “in a state of drift”.
Khurshid, a senior minister known to be close to the Gandhi family, later clarified that his interview to the Indian Express was “wrongly interpreted” but the remarks gave enough ammo to the opposition to target the ruling Congress.
“I was asked some questions and whatever I said was wrongly interpreted. If you (media) are unable to interpret statements properly, then many other issues will be discussed only within the party,” Khurshid told reporters.
In an interview to the Indian Express, Khurshid said the Congress was not getting any ideological direction from the Gandhi scion who is the party general secretary and is widely tipped to take the No.1 role.
“Until now we have only seen cameos of his thought and ideas like democratising elections to the Youth Congress. But he has not weaved all of this into a grand announcement. This is a period of waiting,” Khurshid was quoted as saying by the daily.
Clarifying his comment, Khurshid later denied he meant Gandhi was not taking responsibility.
“We want him to take responsibility as he is our leader and we want him to give power to the party. I have not said that he is not doing it. I have said that our new generation leaders should prepare themselves to face the new challenges.”
He also denied having said the Congress was directionless.
But the published remarks, which came close on the heels of a Time magazine report calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh an “underachiever”, handed enough ammunition to the opposition to target the government and the ruling Congress.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ravi Shakar Prasad said that Khurshid’s comment on the Congress being directionless confirmed the party’s view.
“What is surprising is that it is coming from a senior minister of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which is led by the Congress from last nine years and if he says that the Congress is directionless then country is in a state of drift,” Prasad told reporters.
“Rahul, who is projected as the leader in the future, has no clear convergent thinking and it is being confirmed by a senior government minister.”
Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said: “I am happy to see Khurshid coming out with the fact of lack of ideas in Congress.”
“It is totally different from the Nehruvian position. It is for Congress party to make some introspection on what went wrong,” he said.
Even the Samajwadi Party, which provides outside support to the UPA, agreed with Khurshid’s view and criticised Gandhi’s leadership credentials.
“I welcome Khurshid’s statement…. the UPA II is directionless and country’s economy is suffering because of this,” said party leader Shahid Siddiqui.
Rahul Gandhi “may want to become prime minister but he is not a leader and has no ideological mooring”, he added.
Though there was no official reaction from the Congress on Khurshid’s comments, party insiders said leadership was not annoyed by the remarks from the articulate leader, who is known to weigh his words before he speaks.
“He has only aired a general view in the party. He wants Gandhi to lead from the front and that is what others feel also. Gandhi should come to the centre stage,” a senior Congress leader told IANS on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The leader cited that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna also made similar suggestions about Gandhi, urging him to join the government.
“It seems his (Khurshid’s) quotes may have been twisted. Otherwise there is nothing wrong,” the leader said. (IANS)