- Nehru-Gandhi family must remain active within Congress: Mr Aiyar
- BJP wants "Gandhi-mukt Congress" to have "Congress-mukt Bharat", he said
- Congress is overwhelmingly in favour of Rahul Gandhi staying on: Mr Aiyar
Amid uncertainty over Rahul Gandhi continuing as Congress president, senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said Sunday that a "non-Gandhi" can be party chief, but the Gandhi family must remain active within the organisation. The BJP's objective is to have a "Gandhi-mukt Congress" so as to have a "Congress-mukt Bharat", he claimed.
It would be best that Rahul Gandhi remains party chief, but at the same time, his own wishes must also be respected, Mr Aiyar said.
"I am sure we can survive if we have to without a Nehru-Gandhi as the titular head of the party, provided the Nehru-Gandhis remain active in the party and can help resolve a crisis in case serious differences arise," he told PTI in an interview.
Mr Gandhi has given about a month to the party to find a replacement and there have been confabulations within the Congress over the issue with the feeling in the party overwhelmingly in favour of him staying on, Mr Aiyar said.
The former union minister, however, emphasised that instead of speculating, media must wait for the "deadline" to know whether a replacement has been found or Mr Gandhi gets persuaded to remain Congress chief.
"I don't think it is a matter of personalities. I know it is the objective of the BJP to have a Gandhi-mukt Congress so as to have a Congress-mukt Bharat. I don't think we should be falling into the trap of thinking that they have discovered something that we are not able to discover," Mr Aiyar said.
"If you simply cut off the head then the chicken may start fluttering as it does in the animal kingdom," the 78-year-old leader said when asked if organisational overhaul at the top was needed.
Mr Aiyar cited several instances in the history of the party when people from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family were presidents of the party, from UN Dhebar to Brahmananda Reddy. The same model could even now be adopted, he said.
"Since we know that Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi is the head of the parliamentary party and Mr (Rahul) Gandhi is part and parcel of our parliamentary party, I have every confidence that whether with Mr Rahul Gandhi at the helm or somebody else, the party will fight back and resume in the fullness of time its position as the natural leader of what I call the Idea of India Movement," he said.
Asked if the Congress' tryst with "soft Hindutva" had failed and the party needs to strongly advocate secularism, Mr Aiyar said: "I reject the expression 'soft hindutva' because I don't believe the Congress has moved in the direction of becoming a soft Hindutva party, but it is clear that the absence and hesitation in using the word 'secularism' and trying to find other synonyms like pluralism indicate a certain want of confidence and conviction in the idea of secularism."
"India is a secular country and therefore we should be absolutely firm in articulating the view which is the essence of our Constitution and which is the essence of what we have been calling the Idea of India," he said.