Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday gave interviews to India Today and NDTV in his first one-on-one interaction with television media in the run up to the Lok Sabha election 2019. Rahul, in these interviews, made it clear that his fight is against BJP and is sole aim is to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the general election to stop his government from further 'corrupting the institutions' of democracy.
Rahul expressed confidence that it is the Congress-led UPA which will make the next government and that in all states, a "secular front" will defeat the saffron party. "We are winning this election hands down. It is clear, we are doing better. Our data shows that the BJP is not winning this election," Rahul told NDTV.
On Congress' agenda
The Congress chief reiterated that the main issues that the country is grappling with are widespread unemployment, massive agricultural disenchantment and farmer suicides. He sounded hopeful that people will reject the Modi government this time based on his "unfulfilled promises" and for leaving the economy in "shambles". "There is an upsurge in India against the type of government he (Modi) has run," he said.
"We have boxed the prime minister and he is completely trapped. He should talk about jobs and farmer issues. On those things, he is bankrupt," Rahul was quoted as saying in his interview with NDTV.
On Congress' friends and foes
Talking about Congress' alliances in various states, Rahul said that in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar and Kashmir, his party has successfully forged alliances and it couldn't materialise in Delhi as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal brought in an arrangement for Punjab and Haryana as well in the scene. "The problem was that Kejriwal was shifting goalposts," he said.
Rahul also defended his decision to field candidates in Uttar Pradesh against those of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav's BSP-SP alliance in the crucial state. "It is pretty clear that in Uttar Pradesh, a secular formation is winning, whether it is the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party or Congress... I have told my sister and told Jyotir (Jyotiraditya Scindia) that our primary aim in Uttar Pradesh is to defeat the BJP." When asked what is Congress strategy in the northern state, Rahul said, "In places where we are not strong enough to win the elections, we will support the gathbandhan and the gathbandhan and Congress party are going to clean Uttar Pradesh up."
Rahul hinted at his strategy of re-building the party in Uttar Pradesh with the aim of performing better in the next Assembly election. He, therefore, put the blame of not being able to form a united alliance in the state on Mayawati and Akhilesh, saying it was their call to fight alone for strategic reasons.
"Well, obviously in the UP context, the Congress is a threat to Mayawati and Mulayam Singh. But as far as I am concerned, I am extremely respectful of Mayawati ji and Akhilesh Yadav ji. And I understand that there is a secular formation that is operating in UP and it is going to crush the BJP," Rahul said.
"Now my long-term position in Uttar Pradesh is very clear and I have told Jyotir and my sister that we have to build the party in the state and that is (for) Assembly elections. And in the short-term, here in Lok Sabha, we have to fight for our space, we have to make sure our space is defended. We have to defend our ideology in Uttar Pradesh. Wherever we feel that there is a fight between the gathbandhan and BJP, we are going to support the gathbandhan," he said in light of Priyanka's remarks that Congress has fielded "weak candidates" in Uttar Pradesh to cut into BJP votes.
Rahul also revealed that the decision to not field Priyanka from Varanasi was made "long before" and he had promised to keep "the suspense" until Ajay Rai's candidature was finally announced.
Modi and Rafale
The Congress chief, though maintaining that he continues to have "compassion and respect" for Modi, labelled him corrupt and alleged that the prime minister "paid over €100 million to Anil Ambani two days after the Rafale deal".
"Our survey shows 67 percent people in India believe that Rafale was a scam. The idea that Modi is a crusader against corruption has been destroyed."
He also said that he was not going to apologise to Modi for saying "chowkidar chor hai". "There is absolutely no apology to Modi. I made a genuine mistake that I said the Supreme Court said it. I am not apologising in the least for saying 'chowkidaar chor hai' or that prime minister stole money," Rahul said.
In his interview with India Today, Rahul also accused Modi of using 'national security' to divert attention from the "big issues India confronts".
"...Why doesn’t Modi say, I committed to you that I would give 2 crore jobs, but I failed. I committed that I would put Rs 15 lakh in every bank account, I failed. I committed that agriculture would be given full priority, I failed. These are the real national issues. Why doesn’t he speak on these issues?" Rahul asked.
On Modi's 'hug'plomacy
While hitting out at the prime minister's various programmes and policies such as GST and demonetisation, Rahul also criticised his foreign policy, saying: "He doesn’t even have basic knowledge of foreign policy. In fact, he thinks foreign policy is about hugging as many world leaders as he can!" But on being questioned about his own hug to Modi in the Parliament in February 2018, Rahul said that "had love in it".
Rahul also confirmed that if Congress comes to power, it will open an inquiry into the Rafale deal. "The world's biggest defence contract has been handed to someone who has never built an aircraft. There has to be an inquiry," he said.
NYAY and the way forward
Talking about Congress' promised flagship scheme, NYAY, Rahul told India Today: "We have excellent economists in our system and they have worked on this for many months. This money is not going to come from the middle class. That is my guarantee to you. That not a rupee of this thing is going to come out of your taxes. We’ve done the calculations, the money is going to come from present revenue streams, from reducing inefficiencies in government schemes and from better monetisation of government assets. Some of this money is going to come from crony capitalists like Anil Ambani."
Rahul, however, when asked what he learns from Modi said that it is his ability to give multiple messages to multiple people simultaneously. Taking a sneaky jibe at the prime minister, he said, "How to say something to you, and say the opposite to someone else at the very same time! There’s a certain amount of deception in that, though, that makes me uncomfortable and I won’t be able to do it. But it’s a skill he certainly has. It’s a powerful thing."
He also rubbished reports that he took the decision to contest from Wayanad as he was scared of the consequence of losing in Amethi, a Congress bastion. He attributed his decision on the need to make South India feel " included" and to connect better with that part of India.
Rahul, describing his political journey said, "My experience has been of tremendous battles and violence. I’ve seen my father and grandmother get killed, I have seen elections being won and lost.... Understand me for what I am. Listen to me carefully and judge me for what I am."
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Updated Date: May 03, 2019 15:32:14 IST