Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said that the party faces a “deep crisis”, which is an existential one and not an electoral one, PTI reported. The former Union minister also said that a “collective effort” was necessary to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah.

“We have to understand we are up against Mr Modi, Mr Shah. And they think differently, they act differently, and if we are not flexible in our approach, we will become irrelevant, frankly,” he told PTI in an interview. Ramesh added that it was wrong to assume that anti-incumbency would work against the current government in the next election. “India has changed, the Congress party has to change,” he said.

Ramesh described some members’ behaviour as those of sultans. “The sultanate has gone, but we behave as if we are sultans still. We have to completely redo the way of thinking, the way of acting, the way of projecting, the way of communicating.”

Other points Ramesh made:

  • “I think in all probability, Rahul Gandhi will take charge (as Congress president) before the end of 2017... I thought it will happen in 2015, it didn’t happen. I thought it will happen in 2016, it didn’t happen. So I am the wrong person to ask this question. I feel that it may happen before the end of 2017.”
  • “I have always maintained that it is the collective strength of the Congress that will overcome Mr Modi not some individual magic wand”.
  • “I think there is a lot of goodwill for the Congress, a lot of support for the Congress but people want to see a new Congress. They don’t want to see old mantras, old slogans. We must recognise this is a big challenge. Huge challenge for us.” 
  • On Nitish Kumar’s joining the NDA: “Personally, I was aghast, astonished, deeply disappointed, but we have to move on and we don’t have time.”