Six-time Congress MP slams ’self-styled’ party leaders

March 29th, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) R. Prabhu, six-time MP from Tamil Nadu, has gone where many Congressmen and women would fear to tread, charging “self-styled” Congress leaders with keeping party president Sonia Gandhi away from the rank and file and giving her “wrong advice”. In a candid interview to Hardnews magazine, Prabhu says: “I am sure that the Congress president is more than capable of taking correct decisions despite this.”

Rahul Gandhi, on his recent trip to Orissa’s tribal belt, had urged greater democracy and less dependence on the high command within the Congress. This was the first time that a luminary of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty pointed to the lack of democracy within the Congress. Predictably, the comments made in full public glare raised eyebrows within and outside the party.

When asked about Gandhi’s comment, Prabhu, who had served as fertiliser minister on Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet, said: “What he (Rahul) meant by high command was probably self-styled leaders who are around Congress president who try to insulate her from other leaders and give her wrong advice.”

He had his quota of praise for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. “I expect the combination of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to revitalise the charisma that Gandhi family once had. But that will take another five years.”

Till then, the Congress would have to lean on regional parties for support, he said, and felt that the Left and the Congress would co-exist - if not peacefully, then in an uneasy truce - in West Bengal and Kerala.

Prabhu did some hard talking on the state of the Congress and where it is headed in the next general elections.

“I think all parties are confused at this stage,” he said, indicating that the Congress too appears befuddled. “There are certain things that need to be done not only because of elections but because we are responsible to the masses.”

Price rise is one of the key issues that will decide the swing of the next general elections. The Congress is apprehensive of the toll spiralling prices will take on the party’s electoral fortunes.

Reflecting the mood, Prabhu said: “Prices of essential commodities and articles of daily use will have to be brought down. That should be the starting point.”

Taking a leaf out of the Left’s book, he said the public distribution system (PDS) needs to be strengthened and more commodities brought within its ambit. He blamed the value added tax (VAT) for adding to inflation and raising prices by nearly 25 percent.

“VAT works in a unitary and not federal form of government,” said Prabhu.

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