Cong should look outside Gandhi family for leadership: Sharmistha Mukherjee

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Jaipur, Feb 5 (PTI) Congress leader and former president Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee on Monday said the time has come that the party should look outside the Nehru-Gandhi family for its leadership.

Speaking to PTI on the sidelines of the 17th Jaipur Literature Festival here, she said the number of Congress' seats in the Lok Sabha has reduced, but the party still has a very strong presence in national politics.

“The Congress is still the main opposition party. Its place is undisputed. But how to strengthen this presence? This is the question. It is the job of party leaders to consider this," Sharmistha Mukherjee said.

She said that there is a need to involve grassroots workers at every level in the process of restoration of democracy in the party, membership campaign, organizational elections within the party and policy decisions, as former President Pranab Mukherjee has also written in his diary.

“There is no magic wand,” she said.

On former party president Rahul Gandhi as leader, Sharmistha Mukherjee said, "It is not my job to define Rahul Gandhi. It is not possible to define any individual. If someone asks me to define my father, I cannot even explain my father." On the issue of leadership, she said that the Congress leaders have to answer this. "But as a Congress supporter and a responsible citizen, I am worried about the party. And certainly the time has come to look outside the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership," Sharmistha Mukherjee said.

She also said that she is a die-hard Congressperson whether people believe it or not.

"The Congress should introspect whether it is truly upholding its ideology forward today. Are pluralism, secularism, tolerance, inclusivity, freedom of expression, which have been at the core of Congress, being followed in practice? "Freedom of speech does not only mean that you praise your leader. And the moment you criticize the party leadership, the entire ecosystem puts you in the dock. Is this freedom of expression?" Sharmistha Mukherjee said.

On the opposition INDIA bloc, the Congress leader said that she prefers to call it "INDI Alliance".

"When it was formed, I had posted on X that if it fails, what will be the headlines? 'INDIA Breaks'. No political party should be synonymous with the country. This thought came to my mind," she said.

On the issue of leadership in the INDIA grouping, she said, "As far as leadership is concerned, there are many senior leaders in the alliance...they should sort it out themselves. But they need to resolve the issues like seat sharing, etc. I cannot answer whether this alliance will survive till the general elections." PTI NK SKY KVK KVK

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