Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi

Rahul: Congress will deepen democracy, BJP wants to concentrate power in individual

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, January 27, 2014

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today said the coming Lok Sabha elections would be about his party's push for a more democratic and open society and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) efforts to concentrate power in the hands of an individual.
In an interview with Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, Mr Gandhi said India had always been run successfully when a large number of people were involved in decision-making processes.
Asked why he had shied away from taking on the role of the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Congress in the 2014 elections, he said that it was the prerogative of the Members of Parliament to elect the Prime Minister of the country and the party was only being correct in this regard and showing its respect for the system.
At the same time, he pointed out that he had made it very clear that he would take on any role that the Congress asked him to.
About the Congress decision in the 2009 elections to name Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr Gandhi said that Dr Singh was the incumbent Prime Minister and the party had only made it clear that there would be no change if it were voted back to power.
To a question about whether he was scared of an electoral fight with BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he said, "You have to understand Rahul Gandhi...If you did, you will find out that Rahul Gandhi is not scared of anything."
He said people must understand what he had been through in his formative years, and what he thinks. He spoke of how he had lost his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi.
"My father was in constant combat with the system. I saw him die. I have seen my grandmother die. I saw my grandmother go to jail. I have been through a lot of pain," he said.
Saying that he lost what he would have been scared of losing, he said, "There is nothing I am scared of now."
"I don't like what I see in Indian politics...I see only one thing, I see the system. I am blind to everything else," he said, when asked about what he thought of Mr Modi, who has been attacking him constantly in his political rallies.
Mr Gandhi said the system hurts people every day because it is predatory in nature.
In response to a query about whether he was afraid of losing to Mr Modi, he said he was not and, in any case, that was not the point as far as he was concerned.
"I am here basically for one thing. I see tremendous energy in this country, more than any other country," he said, referring to the millions of youth.
Mr Gandhi said he wanted to change the system and unleash the power of the country's people, especially its youth.
"We will defeat the BJP. We will win the elections. The BJP believes in concentration of powr. I believe in democracy, in opening up the system," he said.
On the Prime Minister's charge that Mr Modi had presided over a massacre in Gujarat in 2002, he said, "What the Prime Minister said is a fact. Gujarat did happen. People did die."
Asked if he, too, thought that Mr Modi was responsible for the violence in which more than a thousand people, mainly Muslims, died, he said, "He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time".
To persistent questions about whether he held Mr Modi responsible for the violence, though courts had cleared him, Mr Gandhi said the Congress and the BJP had opposing ideologies. He said the Congress wanted to push democracy further and deeper, empower the women of the country, create jobs for the youth and open up the political system completely. The BJP, on the other hand, wanted to concentrate power in the hands of an individual, and decision-making in the hands of a few people.
He said the Congress was the only party that was trying to change the system and empower the people.
He repeatedly cited the examples of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and spoke about how the UPA government had created a rights-based paradigm.
He also spoke about how he had worked to strengthen democracy within the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), and about how he now plans to bring about changes within the Congress.
He mentioned how he now plans to, on a pilot basis, select Lok Sabha candidates in 15 constituencies through "primaries". According to him, this would be a far-reaching move and would change the political system in fundamental ways.
Mr Gandhi said there needed to be a debate in the country on how political parties select their candidates, how they are funded, how policies are made and decisions taken, and how the women and the youth could be empowered.
He said he wanted to see India become a manufacturing base for the world, as China is today. He said most major countries in the world wanted to set up manufacturing facilities in India and that is why the Government had taken up projects such as the dedicated freight corridors and the industrial corridors.
Asked about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he said Sikhs as a community had always stood by Mrs Gandhi. He said the act of two individuals could not be overlaid on entire community. He said what had happened in Delhi after Mrs Gandhi's death was horrible. To repeated questions, he said some Congress members were probably involved in the violence, but they were going through a legal process.
But, in answer to another question, he said 1984 was different from 2002 in Gujarat because in the first case, the government of the day was not involved and did everything in its power to stop the violence. He said that, though he was a child at that time, he could see that the government made efforts to end the violence.
He said he had been told by various people that the Government of Gujarat did not do enough to stop the 2002 violence and had, in fact, abetted and pushed the violence. "So there is a huge difference between the two," he said.
Mr Gandhi said that all these pointed to the need to change the system and empower the people.
He also underlined the need to ensure that elected representatives had a larger role in the process of law-making.
In response to another query, Mr Gandhi said he was open to a discussion on bringing political parties under the purview of the RTI. But this should be done in a way that does not create an imbalance, he said.
At several points, Mr Gandhi said there was a need to move to the fundamental and core issues facing the country instead of discussing "superficial" issues. He said the people on the periphery and on the streets needed to be empowered.
Asked why he had remained silent on many issues in the past ten years, he said he used to share his views with the Prime Minister whenever required.
On corruption, he said the Congress would take firm action against anyone found guilty and had done so in the past.
"I want to take India to a different place," he said, referring to the politics of today. "Unfortunately, it is at a particular place toay. Certainly, there are points at which you might have to take a decision which you are not 100 per cent happy with," he said, answering a question about whether the Congress would enter into alliances with parties whose leaders have been accused of corruption.
In any case, he said, alliance would be with the party and the idea, and not with an individual.

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