The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not only evicted the Congress government from Delhi, but is also drawing its cadre from right under the party’s leadership. A general secretary within the Congress, Alka Lamba, recently quit the grand old party to join AAP. The 38-year-old, who had spent more than 20 years in the rank and file of the Congress, called the Congress a “sinking ship” that many members now want to abandon. Lamba spoke to dna’s Rohinee Singh about her disillusionment with the Congress and the inaccessibility of its senior most leadership. Excerpts:
dna: What prompted you to suddenly leave the Congress?
Lamba: This is not a sudden decision. I had been thinking about it for over three years. The Congress party failed in recognising my potential. For the past three years, I had no role to play in the Congress. Despite having worked in various capacities in the party, I was made to feel that I was not required. I am connected to the people and want to work for them, but it was getting very difficult in the Congress culture.
dna: What is this Congress culture?
Lamba: Months before the elections, I had written several letters to the Congress president and the vice president about the health of the Congress in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. I told Sheila Dikshit that she is likely to lose the election and offered to work in her constituency. But she refused any help. For the past one year, I have been seeking time from Rahul Gandhi, but he seems not to have five minutes for his party colleagues.
dna: But hasn’t he (Rahul Gandhi) organised an office fleet to deal with queries of party men.
Lamba: That is where the problem is. His way of managing the office may be good for a corporate house, but is not good for a political party. I have written several letters and emails to Rahul Gandhi apprising him about the party’s political health. But I don’t even know if my letters have reached him. One have to go through an army of people before one can meet him. I don’t think that people around him are giving him correct feedback. Management gurus are not required to run the office of a political leader.
Rahul is one politician who refused to be photographed with his party men in the fear that party members will misuse his photo, by hanging the same in their officer. Every Congressman who has worked with Mrs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi has a photographed with these leaders. Even Mrs Sonia Gandhi connects with the people. But Rahul feels he will be misused. He does not connect with party people, so how will he connect with the masses?
dna: Are you saying that he is unaware?
Lamba: I don’t know whether he is unaware or if he pretends to be unaware. But he definitely does not want any critics around. No matter how much he tries to connect with the common man, he only loves people who have Godfathers in the Congress. Tell me one young leader around him who has risen from the grassroots. Be it Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasad or Jyotiraditya Scindia, they are all sons of royal families. Others like Meenakshi Natajajan and Alka Lamba are kept in the party so that the Congress can tell the people that it does not promote nepotism.
dna: Are you saying that dynastic politics persists in the Congress?
Lamba: Of course. Can you tell me what is Rahul Gandhi’s claim to fame? Why should Priyanka Gandhi be promoted? Is it because she resembles Mrs Indira Gandhi?
There are so many Alka Lambas in the party, who are waiting to get their due. It is not the party for the common man, who wants to get into politics and serve the people.
It is not just nepotism that is killing the Congress. The party does also lacks mass leaders. Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor cannot lead the masses. The reality is that nobody in the Congress dares to speak the truth. The sole aim of every member in the Congress party is to keep the first family happy and misguided.
dna: Is this why you have joined hands with AAP?
Lamba: (smiles) I don’t agree with the BJP’s ideology. And when Rahul Gandhi, after the defeat of Congress in Delhi, said that the Congress needs to learn from AAP, I became sure about what I wanted to do.
I was approached by AAP before the Delhi elections. Manish Sisodia offered me a a ticket to contest the election. But I was a Congress loyalist and did not want to betray before the election. Also, if I were to join AAP to contest the election, people would have thought that I was greedy for power. But now that the dust has settled, I have made up my mind. I want to work freely which I could never have done in the Congress.
dna: What role have you been assigned in AAP?
Lamba: I have just joined them. As per party principles, I have to work for them as an aam aadmi for four months and prove myself, before I am given any responsible role in the party.
dna: Will you contest the 2014 General Elections with AAP? Where from?
Lamba: I will like to if the party wants me to. I represent the common man of this country and can contest the election from anywhere. If the party desires me to contest from Tamil Nadu, I will do that. All I would ask is that I be given sufficient time to do my ground work.