April 25, 2009 3:39:17 pm
Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi dismissed talk of his becoming Prime Minister in the near future,saying he did not have the experience required for the top post “right now” and would refuse to accept it.
“Now I would refuse,” he said at a press conference in Kolkata flanked by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on being asked whether he was prepared to accept Prime Ministership in the near future.
He went on to explain that this was because of two reasons. “One is that I am working in the organisation of the Congress party which I think is fundamental for this country. I think it is very important that a strong,progressive,pro-poor youth organisation is developed in this country and that is a very,very big priority of mine.
“Number two is I don’t think I have the experience to be the prime minister of the country right now,” said 39-year-old Gandhi,who has batted strongly for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continuing in the post if the UPA returns to power.
During the nearly hour-long press meet,Gandhi responded to a volley of questions ranging from the situation in Sri Lanka to the Left Front government performance in West Bengal.
“Chahe mera naam Gandhi ho … kuch or ho … mere principles,mere kam,mera jo feelings hai,wo ek hai (Irrespective of what my name or family is,my principles and work ethic remains the same). Aap mujhe Gandhi dekte hai,what can I do? I can’t change my family. There is nothing I can do about it?” he said.
When pointed out that his family was still in the shadow of the Bofors controversy and 1984 anti-Sikh riots with critics saying that he stood on a pile of rubbish and asked whether he was prepared to apologise,Gandhi said,”There’s absolutely nothing that I have to apologise about Bofors.”
“I don’t appreciate the terminology that you stand on a pile of rubbish. That’s not the right word usage.” On Bofors issue,he said,”It’s a complete lie. It is a calumny being used by the opposition for 20 years.”
To a question on LTTE and demand for extradition of its chief V Prabhakaran,Gandhi said “LTTE is branded as a terrorist organisation. The LTTE personally is responsible for killing my father and so I am not personally a very big supporter of LTTE.”
However,he maintained that the rights of the innocent Tamil people need to protected. “They are not to be touched. When it comes to protecting the rights of the Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka I am absolutely certain that it is of prime importance. There are Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka who are suffering because of the war taking place there,It is our duty to reduce that suffering. The government has tried earlier by putting pressure and has now sent two officials (National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon).
“We are very concerned about the plight of Tamil civilians. We are going to do everything to reduce their suffering.”
On the demolition of the Babri Masjid,Gandhi said “Babri Masjid was broken by the politics of BJP and politics of division.”
When told that he was attacking the Left when the Prime Minister has said that he was open for an alliance with in the post poll scenario,Gandhi said,”I am not attacking the Left,right,left and centre.
Asked whether the Congress was keeping its doors ajar for a post-poll understanding with the Left parties,Gandhi said that its was open to anyone who wants to join it.
“I am nobody to keep the doors open for anybody. I think that there are senior members of the Congress party. There is the Congress president,there is the prime minister. I am a campaigner. I would not be able to tell you whether we are keeping the door open or closed. As a general principle,the door is open for anyone who wants to join us,” he said.
Persisting with its attack on the Left Front government over the implementation of the Centre’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme,he said “I am questioning the pro-poor record of the CPI(M) here.
He said his perception was that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the worst states in the implementation of such programmes,but “I was shocked by what I saw in West Bengal.
“I am pointing out at the tremendous amount of wastage that is taking place. I am pointing out places where we have sent hundreds of crores of rupees for housing and fifty per cent of the money has not been used.”
Gandhi said,”if after the elections we end up joining each other,it does not change the reality that the Left Front government,in my eyes,is not helping the poor.”
He said he was shocked to see that the benefits of the pro-poor scheme were not reaching the people in districts like Purulia.
“My view is that the communist parties have to focus on the poor. That is a positive thing. I don’t see that focus here… There is no difference between Purulia and Kalanhandi in Orissa and Bundelkhand in UP.”
Asked about his view of the state government’s handling of Nandigram,where the agitation over land led to the death of 14 persons in police firing in 2007,Gandhi said “there is need for a balance between growth,on one hand,and the rights of the people who are harmed,as a result of the growth.
“Nandigram is a place where the balance is mismanaged. If the government is insensitive and does not go case by case problems come. This will occur more and more.”
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