NEW DELHI: Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee, who is daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee, wants the grand old party to look beyond Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership citing the failure of Rahul Gandhi in the last two Lok Sabha elections. Sharmistha, whose book ‘Pranab, My Father: A Daughter Remembers’, sheds light on the former President’s observations about the Congress and leadership qualities of Rahul Gandhi, has been critical of the party’s leadership.
“As a Congress supporter and a responsible citizen, I am worried about the party. And certainly the time has come to look outside the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership. In 2014 and 2019, party lost under Rahul Gandhi in a very bad manner, he was the face of Congress,” Sharmistha said. “If a party is losing continuously under the leadership of a particular leader, it is important for the party to think about it. Congress should think about who should be the face of the party,” Mukherjee said.
The Congress won 52 seats in 2019 polls with a vote share of 19.67%. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress could manage only 44 seats with a vote share of 19.52%. The BJP on the other hand increased its tally from 282 in 2014 to 303 in 2019.
Sharmistha Mukherjee questioned the freedom of speech in the party and urged leaders to introspect.
“The Congress should introspect whether it is truly upholding its ideology forward today. Are pluralism, secularism, tolerance, inclusivity, freedom of expression, which have been at the core of Congress, being followed in practice?
“Freedom of speech does not only mean that you praise your leader. And the moment you criticize the party leadership, the entire ecosystem puts you in the dock. Is this freedom of expression?” Sharmistha Mukherjee said.
Sharmistha denied rumours about her joining the BJP and said she is a hardcore Congress worker. Several Congress leaders in the past who have spoken against the leadership of the Gandhis have eventually exited the party. She said the Congress still has an important role to play in national politics.
“The Congress is still the main opposition party. Its place is undisputed. But how to strengthen this presence? This is the question. It is the job of party leaders to consider this,” Sharmistha Mukherjee said.
This is not the first time that Rahul’s leadership ability has been questioned by leaders within the party. Rahul, who quit as party chief following the 2019 debacle, remains the campaigner-in-chief for the grand old party. Both Rahul Gandhi and the Congress would be under immense pressure as the party gears up for the 2024 challenge. The fact that the opposition alliance that the Congress was trying to put in place is in a complete disarray adds to their woes. They face an extremely confident Prime Minister Modi who has already predicted 375 seats for BJP and over 400 for the party-led National Democratic Alliance.

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