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Posted at: Jun 7, 2019, 6:55 AM; last updated: Jun 7, 2019, 6:55 AM (IST)THE TRIBUNE INTERVIEW MANISH TEWARI, ANANDPUR SAHIB MP-ELECT

‘Capt sole leader, a role model’

‘Capt sole leader, a role model’
Manish Tiwari

Senior Congress leader and former minister Manish Tewari has returned to Parliament after defeating SAD stalwart Prem Singh Chandumajra. In an interview with The Tribune reporter  Aditi Tandon, the Lok Sabha MP from Anandpur Sahib spoke on a range of issues

You have termed your Lok Sabha win a personal vindication, why?

Because I have been able to bury the stigma that I was scared of fighting an election. In 2014, I was the Ludhiana MP and minister. Unfortunately after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were announced a lingering health issue manifested itself in a rather virulent manner and on the advice of my doctors I was not able to contest. For five years, my opponents ran a campaign against me saying I had run away from elections as I feared being defeated. For someone who has been a fighter all his life it was painful to be labeled like this. That's why I was keen on contesting the state Assembly elections in 2017, but the party decided otherwise. So Anandpur Sahib contest was a personal crusade and my victory a personal vindication.  

Your plans for the segment?

Anandpur Sahib has tremendous religious and cultural diversity. It is home to Takth Sri Kesgarh Sahib, houses the city of Chamkaur Sahib where the elder Sahibzadas attainted martyrdom; has holy place associated with Guru Ravidas; has memorials for Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his mother. There is tremendous potential to develop the segment as a hub for religious and nationalistic tourism. We will try and institutionalise an annual literary-cultural festival in the constituency. 

CM Capt Amarinder Singh has come down heavily on Navjot Sidhu for hurting party prospects. Your take?  

Capt Amarinder is the only leader of Punjab. If at all there is a contemporary in terms of leadership that he may have, it is Parkash Singh Badal. It is thus unfortunate that young ministers who are a part of his government rather than learning from him are trying to unnecessarily snipe at him. Sidhu or anybody else would really benefit by learning the way Capt Amarinder functions. Getting into a quibble with him is a no-brainer because the reality is that no one in terms of gravitas and leadership quality measures up to him. 

Would you credit Congress' Punjab's performance to Capt Amarinder?

This is the 26th month of Capt Amarinder Singh's government in the state. In the 2004 LS polls, we had won only two seats — Jalandhar and Patiala. This time we have won eight and lost Bathinda narrowly. The credit should and must go to Capt Amarinder because it is his leadership which made all the difference.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi is adamant on quitting his post. Can Capt Amarinder lead the Congress?

My personal belief is that Rahul Gandhi should continue as Congress president. In electoral politics, there are victories and defeats. While victory should not make you overly ecstatic, defeat should not put you down. Insofar as Capt Amarinder is concerned he has deliberately, not from today but stretching back the entire length of his political career, devoted himself to the service of the people of Punjab. He has always had his priorities clear. I think the discussion around who should succeed Rahul Gandhi is meaningless.

How do you read the 2019 verdict after Congress' 2014 loss?

It is a defeat and there is no running away from it. But if you try and do an analysis you eventually come to wrong conclusions. So there has to be an honest assessment in terms of messaging as to where did we go wrong, what is the scope of improvement, how do we plan for 2024?

Why has Congress failed to convince people that it's a viable alternative?

It has now been 38 years that I have been with the Congress. I have seen it going through highs and lows. I remember a time in 1987, when we won just five seats in Haryana. In 1991, we had majority there. The current electoral cycle is not a cause for disappointment although it is a cause of concern. The Congress has the resilience to bounce back but I agree there is need for tremendous amount of hard work.

Will we see you as leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha?

My ambitions have always been circumscribed by the diktats of the party. This is a decision squarely within the remit of the chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party and the Congress president. Any expression of desire or interest by anyone is a complete non-sequitur and meaningless exercise. 

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