Senior congressional leader Anand Sharma said on Thursday that the party’s campaign planning for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls could have been “much better” with the deployment of senior leaders, and lamented that his services were not fully utilized.
However, Sharma said that Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led a spirited campaign in the state and was confident that Congress would win the polls and gain a “stable majority”.
He also said that both the BJP and Congress were “guilty” for failing to assess the implications of the new pension scheme and cited the decision to opt for it when Virbhadra Singh was the prime minister.
In an interview with PTI, the former Union secretary said he campaigned to the best of his ability in the polls where congressional candidates invited him, but there was no centralized planning for his campaign.
“We are better positioned than 2017 as we have tackled issues of particular concern to the masses, be it unemployment, inflation, the old pension scheme or Agnipath’s hiring scheme,” said the 69-year-old leader.
Sharma, who is a member of the party’s steering committee set up by AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge until a new congressional working committee is formed, expressed confidence that his party would outperform the BJP despite the ruling’s high-voltage campaign. party involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi. and several ministers “carpet bombing” with public meetings.
Asked about the Congress campaigning for bringing back the old pension plan (OPS) and introducing the NPS in the state after the OPS was shut down in 2004, he said: “Both the BJP and Congress are guilty of failing to have assessed the implications of the new pension scheme”.
“Maybe it was an error of judgment to choose it when we had Virbhadra Singh as CM. Unfortunately, we did not correct this when we returned to power in the state in 2012 and Mr P Chidambaram was Minister of Finance,” Sharma told PTI by phone.
It is a national issue and the Center and the states must sit down together to resolve the matter, he added.
Asked about the Congress going for a low-key campaign and that Rahul Gandhi did not address a public rally in the run-up to the polls, Sharma said Gandhi’s focus was on the Yatra and that it had also apparently been a conscious decision for Priyanka Gandhi to be the leader. to be. main campaigner with others drafted in.
“Priyanka Gandhi has led a spirited campaign. But perhaps we could have coordinated this campaign better by using the available senior leaders,” the former Union minister said.
Sharma, who was among the group of 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 to push for large-scale reforms, said the party had not involved him in shaping the campaign or had any say in drafting the manifesto. for the polls.
“I believed it was my duty as a congressman to campaign for the party where the candidates invited me to campaign, but no campaign was centrally coordinated for me,” he said.
Asked about his dissatisfaction with the way things were being handled in the run-up to his resignation as head of the party’s steering committee in the state, Sharma said: “Yes, I was (unlucky) because I was chairman of the steering committee, but not involved in consultation nor invited to meetings and even now in the strategic planning of the party campaign. I have not been consulted, but I have campaigned.”
“I campaigned with no complaints, but as I said, this could have been planned much better. The senior leaders were available and should have been consulted, those who have knowledge of the state,” he said.
Sharma said he campaigned to the best of his ability wherever the candidates invited him. “I feel sad that although I made my services available, I was not fully utilized, there was no centralized planning for my campaign,” said Sharma, one of the party’s most prominent faces from Himachal Pradesh.
He also said that both Congress and the BJP have been “hurt and wounded” by uprisings, adding that the BJP is more than Congress. “There are constituencies that would be marginally or substantially affected in terms of results (due to riots),” he said.
“I have no hesitation in saying that we (Congress) have made mistakes in selecting candidates in some constituencies,” the senior congressional leader said.
About Rahul Gandhi not campaigning in the polls, the senior congressional leader said: “I don’t want to comment, it was his decision and he is working on the Bharat Jodo Yatra.” On Congress not disclosing the key ministerial face, Sharma said a consensus could be reached once the MLAs are elected.
“There is nothing wrong with aspirants out there and people in politics have ambitions. In the end there will be only one and there will be consensus,” he said.
When asked if he would be in the running for the post of prime minister when Congress comes to power, Sharma said he has expressed no such ambition and has campaigned where the candidates called for him to campaign.
He also criticized the BJP’s “dual engine” pitch, saying state governments have functioned better on “single engine”. “If both locomotives fail and the train runs aground on the platform, what difference does it make?” he said.
However, he added that he is not one to reject everything.
“There are areas where they (BJP government) have done better, there have been some positives and there are areas where they have failed miserably, especially when it comes to youth, high unemployment, inflation, in unified and balanced development there are problems,” he said.
By August, Sharma had resigned as chairman of the party’s steering committee for the state.
Sharma had reportedly said in a letter to then Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he had not been consulted about the planning for the parliamentary elections and cited several examples where he had not even been invited to discussions. The election for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly will be held on November 12 and the results will be announced on December 8.
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