Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday, December 31, 2022.Anupam Gautam/IANS

Rahul Gandhi says Opposition must coordinate well for 2024 elections and present an alternative vision

New Delhi, December 31, 2022

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today said that if the Opposition stood effectively with a vision it would be very difficult for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

"But the Opposition has to coordinate properly and has to go to the people of India with an alternative vision to the BJP, not just go to the people of India. But there is a huge undercurrent against the BJP, massive undercurrent," he said at a press conference at the Congress headquarters here.

Asked if he would be the Prime Ministerial face of the Congress for the 2024 elections, Gandhi said he was not going to be diverted by such questions.

"My focus is on the idea that India should be united, that we fight hatred and anger with affection, love and harmony and we are providing an alternative vesion of this country. That is what I would like to focus on," he said.

The press conference was held as part of the party's Bharat Jodo Yatra, a 3,570 km, 150 journey on foot from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, in which Gandhi and scores of other "yatris" are taking part.

The yatra reached Delhi on December 24, after covering Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. The yatris have taken a break for a few days so that the containers, in which they spend the nights, can be modified to suit the harsh weather conditions that they will encounter in the next few weeks as they march from here to Kashmir.

Gandhi said that the yatra had been a good experience so far, beyond their expectations, and he had learnt and understood a lot from it.

"The aim of the yatra is aimedagainst the atmosphere of fear, hatred, violence that is being spread in the country," he said.

He said issues like unemployment, price rise, income inequality are also raised during the yatra.

He said all the Opposition parties were supportive of the yatra though many of them could not come out openly due to political and other compulsions.

"Therefore, I do not want to comment on who will join the yatra or not. All I want to say is that the doors of the yatra are open to all those who want to unite india, we are not going to stop anyone," he said.

He said there were several parties whose ideologies were similar to that of the Congress.

"They include Akhilesh Yadav-ji, Mayawatiji. There are many others, who want an india filled with love, they don't want an India of hatred. We have a relationship with such parties -- one of ideologies and one of wanting to unite india and to eliminate hatred," he said.

He said his main aim was to offer to the people an alternative vision of india, an alternative point of view, a new way. "The government has shortcomings... they include unemployment, economic mismanagement, demonetisation, badly designed GST, the China issue,... but our effort, through the yatra, is to give the people a new way of thinking, a new way of living," he said.

To the CRPF's complaint that he was breaching security guidelines, he said how could he possibly carry out an outreach programme like the Bharat Jodo Yatra in a bullet-proof car instead of walking on foot. He said the security agencies never wrote such letters when the leaders of the ruling party got out of their bullet-proof cars to meet people or when they travelled in open vehicles in road shows against the same protocol. "There is one protocol for them, another one for me," he said.

Asked what would be his priority tasks if he were to become Prime Minister, Gandhi said that, without getting into the hypothetical situation of who would be the next Prime Minister, he felt that the country's education system needed to be changed to enable and inspire the youth to dream big.

Secondly, he felt policies should be drawn up to enable the youth to become entrepreneurs, making full use of their various skills.

To another question, he said India had to be made a production nation and "the mindset must change from one of GDP growth to GDP growth + employment + production + exports etc etc etc."

He said some countries could take advantage of the atmosphere of violence, hatred and chaos in India. In this situation, he felt there was a need for rethinking the country's foreign policy because it was currently "confused, event-based and non-strategic" and was causing great harm to India.

Gandhi said he was absolutely convinced that India had a central place on the planet. He recalled that even 80-90 years ago, when the country was not as powerful as it is now, people listened to leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. "Because there something very powerful called Indian values, Indian philosophies, India's thinking and that's actually our strength, and we are destroying it."

"So when we make one Indian fight with another, when we are not harmonious, when a foreigner comes to India and he feels terrified that something might happen to him, we are attacking our own system.

"So, there are the type of things that would be part of an alternative vision. Also, I don't see why only two or three or four people should benefit from the wealth of this country. There is a place for large business, I absolutely agree and they have a central role in India and its future, but it cannot be that there are two or three busines people who run this country, it cannot be," he said.

On a query about China, Gandhi said that he had never raised any doubts about the Armed Forces, his questions were always about the Government.

"I belong to a family of martyrs. My father (Rajiv Gandhi) and my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) were both martyred. Only a family that had lost someone in such a manner would know the pain it causes," he said.

Gandhi said he knew the pain of the family of a soldier who lays down his life while protecting the country's borders. "I know this, I understand this, and no one in the top leadership of the BJP understands this," he said.

"Therefore, my general approach is that I wish that not even one Indian soldier has to lose his life on the borders. I don't want to treat such matters casually and use the Armed Forces for political purposes, and end up causing losses to our soldiers, their families. This is sacrosanct for me, I don't want to do this," he said.

"I love and respect all our soldiers and would not like to see even one of them hurt," he said.

Gandhi said the government had completely mishandled the China issue. He said that, as a result, Pakistan and China had become one, which could prove dangerous for India, and felt the government should work on plans to deal with the situation.

He said this also meant that the government be completely honest with the people on the issue.

"But when I say something about the government, they immediately say that I am criticising and insulting the Army. The government, when it makes a mistake, should not try to hide behind the Army, the Navy or the Air Force," he said.

To a question about the next Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi said he was certain the Congress would win them hands down. He said there was a lot of anger against the ruling BJP in the state.

The yatra will resume on January 3 and enter Uttar Pradesh, after which it will proceed to Haryana, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.


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