Ahead of the AICC meeting on Friday when he is expected to be named the Congress Prime Ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday appeared ready to take up the responsibility.
“I am a sepoy of Congress. I will obey whatever order is given to me. I will do whatever Congress wants me to do... Decisions are taken in our party by senior leaders,” he told Hindi daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ in an interview.
“Earlier also some decisions were taken...Power is poison ....does not mean that I am not keen to take responsibility. There is no word of reluctance in my life...Congress has never been specific. Whatever task the Congress wanted me to accomplish, I have done that,” Mr. Gandhi said when asked whether he was ready to take up the post of Prime Minister and about perceptions of him being reluctant.
Mr. Gandhi’s remarks at the party’s Chintan Shivir in Jaipur in January 2013, that his mother Sonia Gandhi had told him that power is poison had led to speculation as well Opposition attack that the Congress vice-president was not willing to take up responsibility.
Explaining his remarks, he said, “Power is poison is an observation that when power comes, one should know how to deal with the associated dangers that come with it. This is it. Power is poison means use power for the welfare of people and do not use it to make oneself bigger or more powerful.”
To a direct question on whether he will accept any such responsibility, Mr. Gandhi said, “None of my family members ever worked for the sake of power. Neither my father nor my grandmother.”
Mr. Gandhi’s father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi were both Prime Ministers of the country.
“We are a democratic organisation. We have faith in democracy. The people of India will decide through their elected representatives, who will be the Prime Minister of the country. It is necessary for Congress to come to power in the interests of the nation and for that whatever responsibility the organisation has given me or will give me, I will carry out that with full dedication,” he said.
Slamming the BJP for its “Congress-free India” pitch, he said, “BJP today wants a personality-oriented rule, which is not in the interests of the country. The country should not be governed according to thinking of a particular person and his ways. The future of 120 crore people can be shaped up and improved only by taking everybody along.”
Maintaining that “Congress is in the DNA of this country,” Mr. Gandhi said, “BJP is talking of a Congress-free India. It does not understand that Congress alone is the political power, which has kept people of this country united.”
His response was also in reply to a question about Narendra Modi’s popularity.
Mr. Gandhi also sought to make it clear that his sister and friend Priyanka Gandhi will not have any electoral role and that she, as an active member of Congress, is helping him.
“Priyanka is my sister and friend. Besides she is an active member of Congress and that is why she is lending a helping hand to strengthen me and the organisation. I do not think she will have any electoral role,” he said scotching speculation of a larger, direct political role for Ms. Priyanka.
Maintaining that the Congress is always assessed poorly like it was done in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Gandhi said, “Yes, the upcoming elections are exciting and I have full confidence that we will do good in the polls.”
While answering questions regarding the future role for him in the party, Mr. Gandhi also expressed dismay at too much focus on one personality.
“My question is that why all arguments come to halt on one post? Why this is debated at the national level? Why a particular person or post is discussed. Why nobody talks about reform in politics? Why nobody is ready to change the system? The talk should centre around how we change the political system,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi, who had earlier said that his party would “learn” from the Aam Admi Party, also flagged his “differences” with Arvind Kerjiwal’s party on some issues.
“Congress is a strong and active party. Congress has changed the shape of politics in the country earlier also and will do so in future as well. We have been raising these issues since I came in politics. Some of these things have been implemented by AAP. But our ways are different. I am not in agreement with many of their ways.
“Our decisions should be keeping in mind the secure future of people rather than their short term gains,” the Congress vice-president said.