Millennium Post

Congress not underdog: Rahul

An upbeat Rahul Gandhi on Sunday rejected the view that the Congress party was an ‘underdog’ or that it faced an ‘uphill’ task in the Lok Sabha polls, affirming that there would be a Congress-led UPA III.

Acknowledging that after 10 years in power ‘there is a certain amount of anti-incumbency against us’, the Congress campaign chief, nevertheless, disagreed with senior party leader and Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s view that the party was an underdog and faced an uphill task.

‘Congress is fighting a challenging election and we will win the election,’ he said while refusing to hazard a guess about the number of seats the party would get. ‘I am not a soothsayer but we will do well,’ he told PTI in an exclusive interview here.

Debunking opinion polls, which he had described as a joke, Gandhi said the party would do better than the 2009 elections when it had won 206 seats. Predictions before 2004 and 2009 elections also were that the Congress was going to lose and get thrashed, he recalled.

Answering a question on the failure of the government and the party to communicate with the people, he admitted, ‘I think certainly we could have been more aggressive in conveying our achievements. As I said, we have done transformatory work. We could always be better in communication.’

Rubbishing the perception that Congress was losing allies, the party vice president said that it had alliances with NCP, RJD, JMM, RLD and the National Conference but had lost the DMK and the Trinamool Congress.

Asked if the Congress could ‘do business’ with TMC and DMK again, Gandhi replied, ‘We are always willing to work with people who share our ideology and political philosophy, who are determined to fight sectarian and communal forces that seek to divide India for narrow political gains.’

Contending that his power was being ‘overestimated’, Gandhi disclosed that he had differed with the government on a number of issues but ‘I have been overruled.’

Asked to cite examples, he said that ‘one very large public place where I was overruled’ was on the question of making Lokpal a Constitutional body. ‘I had a different view from the senior members of the party and I was overruled.’

Another instance cited by him pertained to the Ordinance to nullify a Supreme Court order disqualifying convicted lawmakers in which he had a view different from senior members of the party but was initially overruled.

‘Then I took the step of making my views public,’ he said in an obvious reference to a press conference at which he had declared that the Ordinance should be torn away. He was articulating the public opinion and the party had listened to that.

In a reference to the controversy triggered by his going public aggressively on the issue while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the US, the Gandhi scion acknowledged that ‘in hindsight that it could have been done in a better way’.

Gandhi was asked about his comments that the ‘system’ needed to move away from concentration of power and that he was going to ‘take on’ the system.

‘You yourself are a product of the system--you are very much an insider--and you want to play the role of an outsider.

Your critics would say that you want to have the best of both the worlds,’ the questioner remarked.

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