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'Ram Punished BJP': Kishori Lal Sharma on Defeating Smriti Irani, Political Rise

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Amethi MP Kishori Lal Sharma talks about association with Gandhis, Smriti Irani and more.

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Video Editor: Nitin Bisht

"My journey began when I used to work in the Punjab Youth Congress and joined through the training programme. A list was made of all the high-potential members of the programme from which 10 people were selected for Amethi. I was one of them. This is how I got associated with Rajiv Gandhi. I have been in Amethi for about 41 years now," said Kishori Lal Sharma, who was recently elected the MP from Uttar Pradesh's Amethi.

One of the most high-profile seats of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and a seat held by the Gandhi family since 1980, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) breached the fort in 2019 for the first time in four decades.

The seat has formerly been held by Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi, with Sharma running the show for them from the backstage election after election. But in 2024, the party decided to bring him to the frontlines to challenge Irani who was defeated by a margin of 1.67 lakh votes.

"Lord Ram punished them through their defeat in Ayodhya, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Rameshwaram and Ramtek. They lost all the constituencies that Lord Ram has set foot into. You should not act bigger than God," Sharma said on the party's performance in Uttar Pradesh.

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Sharma talks about the election, his association with the Gandhi family, the future of Congress in Uttar Pradesh and more.

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You defeated one of the most senior ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Were you confident of your victory in Amethi during the elections by such a big margin?

Yes, I was certain about my victory. I saw both the new and old party workers rallying behind me after Priyanka Gandhi called me a member of their family. I was expecting my vote margin to be around 1 lakh. I didn't anticipate people's minds well enough to know they would make me win by such a big margin. I was certain about 1 lakh votes because I have been doing this work for 40 years. I read my victory in the eyes of the workers and earnestly put all my efforts with them. Akhilesh Yadav's team and the Samajwadi Party, the Aam Aadmi Party and all our other alliance members worked really hard and extended their support, which led me to this victory. There was a lot of talk in Delhi media that the vote margin will be narrow, between 20,000-30,000. They downplayed the support for me. But I never agreed with them, because I could see the smile on the workers' faces whenever our eyes met. They were never dull, I had a feeling that they will make this victory possible for me.

What factors do you think ensured your victory in Amethi?

Firstly, the people of Amethi wanted change. Secondly, I was supported by the Gandhi family. These two factors combined led me to victory.

Do you think some local factors were against Smriti Irani and her work this time?

I cannot say so because that is for her to introspect. We conducted a positive campaign and did not negatively downplay anyone. We were fighting for issues and did not deviate from them.

You have been behind the curtains in Amethi and Raebareli for a very long time. For years, the Amethi seat has been won by the Gandhi family. In 2019, for the first time, that seat did not favour the Congress. How did you assess the factors behind Rahul Gandhi's 2019 defeat in Amethi?

Misuse of power by the ruling party was the first factor. The second was the lack of management on our part. The defeat was a combination of these two. But even then, Rahul Gandhi got more than 4 lakh votes and lost by a very small margin. So, I never perceived Rahul Gandhi as a loser. I would have done so only if he had lost by a margin of 2-2.5 lakh votes. It was a victory of the ruling party who was in power both at the Centre and the state at the time. Rahul Gandhi would not have lost if there was no misuse of that power and local mismanagement on our part.

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You are from Punjab. What was your journey like from Punjab to settling in Amethi, and from politics to the Parliament? Can you tell us how you developed a relationship with Amethi?

My journey began when I used to work in the Punjab Youth Congress and joined a training programme. A list was made of all the high-potential members of the programme from which 10 people were selected for Amethi. I was one of them. This is how I got associated with Rajiv Gandhi. I have been in Amethi for about 41 years now.

Do you remember your first meeting with Rajiv Gandhi?

I saw Rajiv Gandhi for the first time in Shimla. Being a part of the Congress, I always wished to get a chance to work with a leader like him. He became an MP for the first time in 1981. So, I met him in 1981-82 and started working with him in 1983.

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You have worked with both Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi over the years. What similarities and differences have you observed in them?

Rajiv Gandhi was Rahul Gandhi's father. So, I do not think it is appropriate to compare the two. As far as I have observed, both of them think for the nation first, not for themselves. This is a huge similarity between the two.

Do you think Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra left an impact on Uttar Pradesh?

It left an impact everywhere across the country. Congress has performed better than before. We have more than doubled our tally. More people joined as members. Today the Opposition has significant strength in the Parliament.

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You have talked about change. Taking a look at Uttar Pradesh's election results, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party performed very well. The BJP even lost a seat like Ayodhya. What factors do you think worked in favour of the Congress-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh?

We were a part of the INDIA alliance and both the parties worked honestly. So the first factor was that the votes did not split. Secondly, as you talked about Ayodhya, the BJP's overconfidence was increasingly visible. Lord Ram is everywhere, so how can a human bring him to Ayodhya? He is a God, present everywhere. "We will bring those who brought Lord Ram", was a very arrogant slogan used by the BJP. Lord Ram punished them through their defeat in Ayodhya, Chitrakoot, Nashik, Rameshwaram and Ramtek. They lost all the constituencies that Lord Ram has set foot into. One should not act bigger than God.

The BJP led the Ram Mandir movement for 30 years. But even after the Ram Mandir was built, the impact of the movement was not seen in the election results. Do you think the polarisation and communal agenda that the BJP is accused of is now changing?

This movement was originally started by the Vishva Hindu Parishad. When the BJP sensed political gains, they took over VHP's movement. We should know that the original movement was started by the VHP, and before them by the Hindu saints.

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You must have observed the Parliament's functioning in the last few years- how Bills were passed and were not being referred to committees. Do you think the Parliament will see a change with a stronger opposition?

Yes, there will be many changes because the Opposition is now stronger. The BJP cannot do as they please in the Parliament anymore. Secondly, the BJP does not have a majority, they do not have 272 seats in the Parliament. They are in power only because of their alliance partners. Those parties are also secular by nature, so they will think before they support them on any decisions.

There is an increase in the Congress' vote share in Uttar Pradesh, but even now they have only six seats out of 80. Since when do you think the Congress started weakening in UP, and what more needs to be done in the state party unit to perform better in future?

I don't oversee our work in Uttar Pradesh, our senior leadership will decide that. But I think the party needs to be made stronger. Priyanka Gandhi took the Congress to the grassroots and we reaped its benefits in the Parliament. In a way, she started from scratch and built the party there. We were a part of an alliance this time. Both the party and the alliance partners worked hard, and our results improved. We need to work on a 'mission-oriented mode' in Uttar Pradesh.

Priyanka Gandhi will go to Wayanad now. Do you think her absence will affect the party unit here?

She said she will look after both Amethi and Wayanad. She remains connected to both Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad. Both the brother and sister said this.

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