In this Idea Exchange moderated by Senior Editor D K Singh, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma defends Rahul Gandhi’s strategies, questions Narendra Modi’s development claims, and admits Congress lacks in communication
D K Singh: Where do you stand today before the elections?
Each election is a challenge and we are capable of meeting it. We are telling people what we have achieved. We have delivered and remained focused. When you look at the economy, social indices and empowerment, the UPA government stands out. There has been a slowdown in the last few years, but we have to look at fundamentals at the macro level. The GDP growth has been 7.3 per cent in 10 years and two-way trade has increased from $140 billion in 2004 to more than $210 billion. India has been one of the top three most favoured destinations for foreign investors since 2008. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is $176 billion and, by the end of the year, it will touch $210 billion. We have opened many sectors for FDI. In consumption patterns for the farm sector, we have ensured remunerative prices. As for social indices, life expectancy is up by five years for men and six years for women. We have ensured bank branches, social and financial inclusion to the weakest and vulnerable sections of the society. There is much to be said when it comes to achievements, but it gets lost.
D K Singh: Are you dismissive of the pre-poll surveys?
It depends on how you take it — with a pinch, or a fistful of salt. Voters and their thinking evolve with campaigns and I hope they will be objective. This is an informed and educated electorate, especially the first-time voters. So, to expect what happened in December 2013 to get reflected in May 2014 may be off the mark.
D K Singh: Since Rahul Gandhi is the new campaigner for the Congress, will the election results be a verdict on his leadership?
He is leading the charge and all senior leaders are in the campaign fray. We have not gone for advanced anointment like the BJP. It is a collective effort and the manifesto and the strategy are decided when a group of leaders sits together. Members do change it before it goes to the working committee. We have to adapt and the 2014 manifesto may be different from the 2009 one, but the ground realities do get commented on. That’s what we have been working on.
D K Singh: So, should Rahul Gandhi not be credited or blamed for the results?
The party is making its contribution, but he belongs to the new generation. In a country like ours, Rahul is seeking to connect with the people as a whole and is representative of the younger generation. He has been in active public life continued…
The least number of women candidates have been fielded by the Congress which has given tickets to just five women contestants.