Modi is popular among under-25; maybe they see, wrongly, a future in him and that’s a challenge for us: Ajay Maken

Until 2014, Ajay Maken was taken to be one of the most promising young leaders in the Congress. He had become the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly at the age of 39, and was the youngest in the country to have held such a post. More recently, Maken became the youngest Cabinet minister in the UPA-2 government, holding charge of the housing and urban poverty alleviation portfolios.

Maken continues to hold an important position in the Congress — that of the president of its Delhi unit. However, the party in Delhi is facing tough times — with zero members in Parliament, zero members in the Delhi Assembly and a marginal presence in the city's three municipal corporations. In such a situation, not many in his party, or outside, would like to be in his shoes. Maken faces the daunting challenge of reviving his party, lifting the morale of workers and containing factionalism. However, he is known for his grit which he acquired in the mid-1980s while fighting the Delhi University Students Union election and winning it for the NSUI.

File image of Congress leader Ajay Maken. PTI

File image of Congress leader Ajay Maken. PTI

Recently, he commissioned a survey to sense the popular mood with respect to the Congress. As anyone would expect, his in-house survey didn’t disappoint him – indicating that if parliamentary elections are held now, the Congress would win five seats, BJP one and AAP one. According to the survey, if Maken were to contest from his old seat — New Delhi — he would win with a record margin.

Another finding of the Congress' survey is that more voters in Delhi (39.8 percent) want to see Rahul Gandhi as prime minister compared to Narendra Modi (35.3 percent). However, it also concludes that Modi is more popular among people younger than 25 years — with 49.1 percent wanting to see him as prime minister as against 28.4 percent for Rahul Gandhi.

In a freewheeling chat, 'Let's Talk,' Firstpost asked Maken for his views on why Modi's popularity is almost double that of a 'young' Rahul Gandhi, according to the Congress' own survey. The Congress leader was candid in his response — "This is an issue in the survey which is a cause of worry for us. But on the basis of these findings, we will work on an outreach programme and pick up issues accordingly. People below 25 years of age are first-time or second-time voters, and many of them are students. It is possible that they see a future in him. We will have to convince them that this hope is a false one. However, we have the overwhelming support of people older than 25 years of age."

Maken is optimistic on the Congress winning the next Assembly election, and the person who he believes can make a comeback to become the chief minister is 80-year-old Sheila Dikshit. She will be 82 when the next Assembly election takes place in 2020. She had been briefly named as the Congress' chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, but withdrew later.

However, Maken is anguished over being portrayed by left-liberal intellectuals and the AAP as a roadblock in the way of a broader Opposition coalition (and a Congress-AAP tie-up in Delhi). He says, "I want to ask left-liberals — when has the AAP protested against the Modi government in the last four years? They protest only against the L-G. I want to convince left-liberals that secular forces should come together, not opportunists. Would you call people secular if they had embraced Baba Ramdev, defamed the Congress and helped Modi become the prime minister? Everyone in Delhi knows the difference between what they practice and what they preach. Not just 99 percent, but 100 percent of Congress leaders and workers are averse to any kind of understanding with the AAP."

Updated Date: Jun 12, 2018 13:50 PM

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