Shri Rahul Gandhi's interview with Dainik Bhaskar, a leading Hindi daily
Q) Will you take up the responsibility of being the Prime Minister?
We are a democratic institution and we believe in democracy. The people of India will decide, through their elected representatives, who will become the Prime Minister of the country. To safeguard the interests of the nation it's important for the Congress to be in government. For this, whatever responsibility the organisation has given me or will give me in future, I will fulfil to the best of my abilities.
Q) There is a perception that Congress has lost the ability to give a fight at the grass roots level. Your MP's and MLA's don't hit the ground anymore?
This is not true. This is a big generalisation. There are many capable leaders in the Congress who are connected with the masses and the grass roots. I don't agree that our MP's and MLA's don't work on ground. There is a need to bring youth to the party. We have been doing it and will continue to do so.
Q) You have said that Congress will learn from the Aam Aadmi Party?
The Congress is a strong and vibrant organization. In the past, Congress has shaped the politics of the country, and will continue to do so in future. Ever since I entered politics we have been raising these issues. The Aam Aadmi Party has implemented some of these issues. But our approach is different from theirs, and I do not agree with some of their methods. Our decisions should ensure a secure future for our people, rather than short term gains.
Q) What do you have to say about BJP's slogan of a 'Congress free India' and the popularity of Narendra Modi?
BJP wants a personality centric regime which is not in the interest of the country. The government should not be run by one individual's thoughts and methods. We can shape the future of 120 crore Indians only if we take everyone along. The Congress is in the DNA of the country. BJP talks about a Congress free India, but it does not understand that the Congress is a political force which has kept the people of this country united.
Q) What will be the role of Priyanka in the next elections? Will she contest?
Priyanka is my sister and friend. At the same time she is an active Congress worker, and is working to strengthen me and the organisation. But I don't think she will have any electoral role.
Q) Are you hundred per cent sure that Congress-UPA will win the general elections?
I believe that in the last ten years we have done good work through which we have changed the developmental framework. Our landmark legislations include Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, Right to Education and Land Acquisition. The Congress party is progressively giving more rights to people. We have given Right to Information; we have given Right to Forest; we given Right to Identity through Aadhaar; then we gave Right to Food. The UPA government will be remembered in history for giving rights to the people.
As far as elections are concerned the Congress has always been underestimated. In 2004 and 2009 elections we were underestimated, and we proved everybody wrong. The forthcoming general elections will be an exciting one and I am confident we will do well.
You haven't asked me this, but I want to tell you that one of the biggest strengths of India is its education system, but we will have to open it. The current system doesn't look like it can fulfil the needs of 125 crore Indians. In the last ten years the Congress made a big effort to ensure that maximum number of children can be sent to schools, and provided education. The next step will be to strengthen our teaching community. We have created a strong manufacturing sector so that people can be provided employment. We have opened the power sector, we have built highways. We are making corridors like the Mumbai-Delhi and Bangalore-Chennai industrial corridors. We want to change the country in a way that people from all sections benefit.
Q) It is said that you shy away from taking responsibilities. And that you are reluctant?
In our party these decisions are taken by senior leaders. This has been the case in the past as well.
Q) But my question is not who takes decisions; the Congress party has its own ways of making decisions. My question is about you keeping a distance from responsibilities. Like the 'Power is Poison' remark'¦which is very famous. Is it that you don't want to take responsibilities?
'Power is Poison' doesn't mean I am not ready to take responsibilities. There is no such word as reluctance in my life. 'Power is Poison' is an observation, which speaks of the dangers that power brings with it, how to deal with those dangers. That is what it is. 'Power is Poison' means power should be used for the benefit of the masses, and not to strengthen own position and stature.
Q) But my question is simple. Would you accept any such responsibility, or would you reluctantly say yes? Will you say 'I will think about it'? What will you say?
You see, none of my family members have ever worked for the lure of power'¦my father, my grandmother none of them.
Q) No, I am not talking about power.
Look, I am a dedicated soldier of the Congress party. I will do whatever the party wants me to do. My question is why does the whole debate revolve around a post? Why are we indulging in a conversation which veers around one individual and one post; why don't we talk about reforming the political system? Nobody is willing to talk about changing the system. The debate should be how we can change the political system.
Q) People are waiting for a specific declaration ' a clear announcement. Why isn't the Congress specific?
The Congress has never been specific on this issue. Whatever task the Congress party has given me, I have fulfilled it. Whatever work I will be entrusted with, I will accomplish it.
As far as power is concerned I would like to recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi. He had said, when you think of power think of the last man in the line. This is the danger, once you come to power you forget that last man.
Q) Why is the Congress party shrinking? Are you satisfied with its performance?
I have never claimed everything is fine with the Congress party. There are certain areas which need to be worked on, and I have already shared my opinion with the party on this.
Q) How will you ask people which candidates they prefer?
Congress wants to embrace democratic principles in all their depth and entirety. We are getting common man into the party. Today we have opened our election manifesto to the masses. It's the first time youth from across the country is taking part in this process. I want the common man to tell us what he wants to see in the manifesto.
Q) What is the reason that even allies are distancing themselves from the Congress party?
Allies are distancing themselves, this is not right. Our discussions are underway. We have allies in J&K, we have allies in Maharashtra. In Bihar, where we didn't have allies, we are in talks with prospective partners.
Q) In Bihar, if you strike an alliance with Laloo Yadav, your claims to fight corruption will fall flat. Why would the Congress want to do that?
Talks are still at a nascent stage. These decisions will be taken by party's Alliance Committee and I will accept whatever decisions they take.
Q) Please tell us something about your hobbies.
I like swimming and running. I do meditation and practice Japanese martial art Aikido. Physical fitness is essential for mental fitness. I have a lot of interest in technology. My father Rajiv Gandhi was a pilot, and I also have a pilot's license.