IN the Congress, Digvijay Singh, a general secretary, has earned a reputation for being an election specialist. He is deputed to important States at election time, and has made creditable achievements in different parts of the country. In the current round of Assembly elections, he played a major role as the person in charge of the campaign in Maharashtra. Excerpts from an interview:
Will this round of Assembly elections have a significant impact on national politics, and if so what will be its qualitative dimensions?
We have done well in all the three States, and it certainly is a morale-booster for our cadre throughout the country. But State elections are fought on State-level issues and dont really affect national politics.
While the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine just about managed to reach the majority mark in Maharashtra, the Congress failed to do so in Haryana.
Our performance in Haryana cannot be rated as bad. Historically, incumbent governments in Haryana have been systematically wiped out. Therefore, it is creditable that we emerged as the single largest party and could form the government.
There is a view that the Assembly victories are just a continuation of the Lok Sabha victory and that the most important factor in all three States was the goodwill created by the Union government. Also, the divided opposition in Maharashtra and Haryana is cited as a major contributor to the Congress gains.
It is a fact that there is tremendous goodwill for the UPA government and the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. It is also true that we gained from the division of the anti-incumbency vote. But one has to look at the larger picture, and it is that the Congress has been brought back to power by the people of the respective States.
The Congress failure to win a significant number of seats in rural Haryana is seen to represent a growing alienation of the rural masses owing to the pro-globalisation policies pursued by the Centre and the Congress-run State government.
The people of Haryana have reversed the trend of throwing out incumbent governments and have brought back the Congress as the single largest party. The Congress has maintained that it will pursue economic globalisation with a human face. That was what was done under the Congress government in Haryana. If one were go to into the details objectively, one can see that the land acquisition and rehabilitation policies of the Haryana government for industrial development are the best in the country.
This election has strengthened the secular values propagated by the Congress, but it has also given regional forces such as the INLD and chauvinist groups such as the MNS cause to cheer. How do you evaluate this trend?
There is no doubt the people have rejected the communal and divisive politics/ideology of the Shiv Sena-BJP. I also feel that people are moving towards national parties and that the influence of regional parties will decline in national politics. But in State politics, if the national party is not strong then a strong regional party will be there as a viable option. The MNS is a political upstart and will not be able to sustain itself for long by practising divisive politics.
There are apprehensions that the Congress will now start riding roughshod over its UPA partners.
Every political party has the right to increase its space, so does the Congress. Please also remember that we are a mature political party and have shown that to the country by successfully running the UPA government.
You commented during the campaign that the reasons for the existence of the NCP as a separate political party are no longer there. The comment generated a heated debate. What is your view on the issue now?
I had raised that point on the premise that it is time for all like-minded secular parties to come under the banner of one organisation to prevent the growth of communal and divisive forces. When secular organisations, especially those like the NCP, whose ideology and political structure are similar to those of the Congress, stay separately, it helps communal forces. I am of the view that the argument holds good even now.