Rahul Gandhi hints at PM role if party wins election

NEW DELHI Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:27pm IST

1 of 3. Rahul Gandhi, a lawmaker and son of the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, smiles as he speaks with the media in New Delhi March 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a dynasty that has led India for most of its history, suggested in an interview published on Tuesday he was ready to be prime minister if his party won forthcoming elections, his first indication that he wants the job.

Gandhi's Congress party heads the coalition that has governed India for a decade. Buffeted by corruption scandals, low economic growth and high inflation, the party is facing strong opposition challenges in the election due by May.

"I am a soldier of Congress. Whatever order is given to me I will follow it. Whatever Congress says, I will follow it," Gandhi, 43, said in a rare interview with the Hindi-language Dainik Bhaskar, which describes itself as India's most widely read daily.

Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers in post-independence India, made the remarks ahead of a party meeting on Friday focusing on the election.

Current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this month ruled out serving another term if his party won the election and threw his support to Gandhi, praising his "outstanding credentials".

Many party workers, including senior ministers, are pushing for Gandhi's name to be announced as prime ministerial candidate. A section of the party, however, thinks that would expose him to a confrontational campaign against opposition leader Narendra Modi, whose style is seen as more dynamic.

Gandhi said Congress does not traditionally announce prime ministerial candidates during a campaign, but said he would respect the party's decision.

If nominated, Gandhi would take on Modi, the candidate of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is campaigning on a platform to end the red tape and graft that have bedevilled the Congress-led coalition.

Compared with the relatively untested Gandhi, Modi has years of experience as the chief minister of Gujarat, where he has built a reputation as an efficient, business-savvy administrator, though critics deride him as authoritarian.

Gandhi said a "one-man" government was not in the national interest. "The government should not function according to the whims and fancy of a single person," he told the newspaper.

MODI TOPS OPINION POLLS

Opinion polls put Modi in the lead, even as he has been unable to shake off allegations over anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002.

At least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims. Modi denies wrongdoing and a Supreme Court investigation found no evidence to prosecute him.

The Congress meeting is also expected to inject life into its slow-moving campaign. At the same meeting last year, Rahul was made party vice-president. His mother, Sonia Gandhi is party president.

Congress leaders are also worried about the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), formed by an anti-corruption crusader less than a year ago. The AAP defeated Congress in New Delhi in a state election last month and plans to field candidates across India, increasing the chances of a weak coalition emerging from the vote.

Gandhi has in recent months railed against corruption to win back voters who backed the AAP and appeal to young audiences. He sought to distance himself from the AAP in the interview.

"Congress is a strong and progressive organisation which has changed the nature and role of politics in the country and we aim to continue the trend," he said.

"The Aam Aadmi Party has also worked toward this direction, but we are two different entities with different ideology and different style of working."

(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar and Nigam Prusty; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Ron Popeski)

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Comments (2)
Subrabhama wrote:
We have a proverb in Tamil: “If my aunt were a man, she would have moustache.” Rahul’s proclamation of his intention to take up the PM’s post is truly in line with this adage. Indeed, he is not cocksure as many of the Congressmen are. He says he would take up the job in case his party wins the election. That is a big if. There not many, including hard core Congressmen and party loyalists, who believe in this. The odds are heavily against the Congress Party and it cannot live down the infamy of corruption and misrule. Most expect an alliance (rather a crowd!) of regional parties to emerge and the Congress Party will have no leverage. Rahul himself harbours this doubt when he qualifies his claim to become the PM to his party coming back to power.

Leaving aside this, Rahul has not proved his worth as a candidate with leadership qualities. He has been a Member of Parliament for many years and has made only two speeches. He has not participated in any major debate on any of the burning issues. Rather, some his statements have embarrassed the Congress Party. His abrasive statements resemble those made by spoilt brats. His only claim, if at all, to become a PM is dynastic. Indian masses are disgusted with dynastic politics and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party is a pointer. Sadly, Bourbons never learn.

Jan 14, 2014 6:46pm IST  --  Report as abuse
Freedom15 wrote:
“I am a soldier of Congress. Whatever order is given to me I will follow it. Whatever Congress says, I will follow it,”
Signor Gandhi, I truly respect what you have said but what the nation is looking for is:
- someone who is 100% Indian first and then everything else
- A Commander In Chief (Air Marshal/General/Admiral)not a soldier (who goes to peoples houses for photo sessions!)
- Someone who has experience to lead (Modi) and a true following (Kejriwal), not someone who can’t even attend lok sabha (for which he is getting paid for!!)

I think, anyone will be better than you or your party.

Jan 14, 2014 9:22pm IST  --  Report as abuse
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