Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday said that the party was facing an “existential crisis” for the first time. In an interview to PTI, he listed out the number of times the Congress had faced an “electoral crisis”, but admitted that the party had never been in such bad shape.

“The party really is in deep crisis,” he said. “I would say that the Congress is facing an existential crisis. It is not an electoral crisis.”

The former Union minister emphasised that a “business as usual” approach would not work against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Calling for collective effort, Ramesh said the Congress needed to bring in more flexibility to compete against the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah.

“They think differently, and they act differently,” he told PTI. “If we are not flexible in our approach, we will become irrelevant, frankly...It is the collective strength of the Congress that will overcome Modi, not some individual magic wand...India has changed, the Congress party has to change.”

On Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar

Ramesh said Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was likely to take charge of the party by the year end. “I thought it will happen in 2015, but it did not,” he said. “I thought it will happen in 2016, it did not...I feel that it may happen before the end of 2017.”

The Congress leader also called Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to ally with the BJP a “complete betrayal of the mandate” of the people. “I was aghast, astonished and deeply disappointed, but we have to move on.”