When the Congress returned to power in 2013 in the state, he was the party general secretary in charge of the party’s affairs in Karnataka. Now the septuagenarian Madhusudan Mistry, a Congress leader from Gujarat, is back in Karnataka, this time as head of the screening committee for selection of candidates for the coming assembly poll. He is typical of the Congress old guard, guarded and diplomatic. When Deccan Chronicle caught up with him, he was surrounded by party workers, but took out time to answer a volley of questions. Excerpts from the interview:
Five years ago you were the party national general secretary in-charge of Karnataka when the Congress won the assembly elections. What exactly is the nature of your assignment this time?
People are meeting us. We have been screening the candidates. We are listening to them. After interacting with them, we will consult CM Siddaramaiah and the Pradesh Congress Committee president. After that we will shortlist the candidates and send their names to the election committee and then the central election committee where the party president and others will finalise them.
What is your yardstick for screening the candidates?
We will get an idea once we meet senior leaders. A senior committee member will propose the yardstick and accordingly the candidates will be selected.
The AICC may have given you some guidelines before you came..No..no..We are having a preliminary meeting. The full committee has to meet to chalk out the guidelines.
Will dynasty be a criterion for selecting candidates?
Winnability is the criterion for selecting candidates.
But KPCC president, Dr G. Parameshwar said the party could opt for the one-family-one-ticket format.
I do not know, you have to ask him.
Also, your party president, Rahul Gandhi announced in California some months ago that dynasty was a social reality in the country.
The Election Commission has laid down certain rules and we have to follow them to contest the elections. We cannot circumvent them. Secondly, whether you have a political lineage or not, you have to seek the blessings of voters. One will get elected only with the voters’ backing. Therefore, political lineage will not be a deciding a factor. There are families where members, generation after generation, enter films. I can show you families where father, son and those from the third generation have joined the Indian Army. As far as politics is concerned, you should ask MPs and MLAs how difficult it is to get elected.
But your party workers complain they lose out because dynasties are promoted. We haven’t come across any such complaint.
What kind of party workers are meeting you?
A large number of youth and women are coming forward to meet us. Nearly half of the seats are represented by our party MLAs. The fight for tickets will be for the rest of the constituencies represented by the Janata Dal (Secular) and Bharatiya Janata Party. We have received more representations from these constituencies.
Did those you meet include the Chief Minister’s son and other aspirants like him?
No, I haven’t met members of our leaders’ families.
Recently, the party inducted Mr Anand Singh, who has gone to jail. Is the Congress party open to criminals and the corrupt?
(Looking angry) Who is Yeddyurappa and who is Amit Shah? Why are these questions not asked to them? They went to jail. How can Prime Minister Narendra Modi sit with Yeddyurappa? Why are you targeting the Congress party? What annoys me is that only the Congress is asked this question.
But it was the Congress , which went on a padayatra to Ballari against illegal mining and yet two of the mining accused joined your party in the presence of Mr Gandhi in Hosapete. What message does this send?
It is the party’s decision. The important question here is who will win the election as we have to form the government. That is important. And I am confident we will form the government.