The Congress on Thursday appointed Arvinder Singh Lovely as president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee following Jai Prakash Agarwal’s resignation from the post. The 68-year-old had resigned last week following the political party’s decimation in the December 4-Delhi assembly election. Of the 70 seats, Congress won just eight, down from 43 seats it won in the previous election. In an interview with dna’s Rohinee Singh, Agarwal said the weak Congress cadre in the national capital will now have a strong leader to look forward to.
dna: Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit said lack of support from the party is to be blamed for the Congress’ loss. What is your view on the loss?
Jai Prakash Agarwal: She (Dikshit) has aired her view. But as a party, every party man was out on the field working for the Congress. We lost the elections because of the Aam Aadmi Party factor in Delhi, which everybody failed to assess.
dna: A lack of co-ordination between the Delhi Congress office and the chief minister’s office was clearly visible. Do you agree?
Agarwal: As the head of the party, my office was open to all Congressmen. We offered all the support that the candidates required. I have always spoken highly of Dikshit and it is for the people to judge what has gone wrong.
dna: Can you comment on the Delhi Congress cadre, which is seen as being scattered and weak.
Agarwal: All this while, we have had two seats of power in Delhi. With the Congress no longer in power in Delhi, all Congress activities will take place from the PCC office. The cadre will also have one leader to look forward to. I have full faith in (Arvinder Singh) Lovely and he will be able to keep the party together. He has had a long association with the party.
dna: Do you fear the Congress’ future in Delhi?
Agarwal: Not at all. Congress has stood several tests of time and this is one of them. We will bounce back under a unified leadership.
dna: What is the biggest challenge before the Delhi Congress now?
Agarwal: To succeed in Delhi, there has to be a unanimous stand within the party. There should be no room for a difference of opinion in the Congress.
dna: Is the Aam Admi Party a threat to the Congress in the General Elections?
Agarwal: Their performance in Delhi will reflect in 2014 general elections. The Aam Aadmi Party has got Congress votes after making false promises. If they fail to fulfill their promises, they will betray the people. If they do not want to disappoint their voters, they should form the government in Delhi. You can’t run the country from a janta darbar. There are some decisions that, as elected representatives, a party has to take. But AAP does not seem to be doing so. Their way of operating is impractical.
dna: With six years at the helm, you’ve been the longest-serving party president. How do you feel now that you are out of the office?
Agarwal: I have been the party president for more than six years and have led the party in four elections. It was my moral responsibility to leave after we lost this election. I certainly feel more relaxed but there is much to be done I will continue to work for the Congress in whichever capacity the party wants me to.
dna: By anointing 47-year-old Lovely, is the party sending a message that it is changing the old guard to bring in younger leaders?
Agarwal: Change is the only constant in the world and it is always required. I had also replaced Ram Babu Sharma. I don’t think it is a question of phasing out the old from the party. The Congress has always respected its experienced and senior leaders. My association with the party over three generations is very strong. I will continue to be a member of Parliament, and will serve the party in whichever way the party wants me to.