How challenging is it to be handling major responsibilities in UP and MP?
It’s an opportunity as well. Most important is to galvanise cadres, select candidates and boost up the campaign. I have done the first part. Soon I will be in western UP and then travel to other parts of the country. It’s certainly challenging, you have to ensure that you are focused on your area as well, but in the challenge lies an opportunity.
Does the Congress stand a realistic chance in UP?
I think our cadres are galvanised and we will put up a robust performance. But this is the first step towards the build-up to 2022.
Should Priyanka Gandhi contest?
It’s an important decision and has to be taken by the person concerned.
Are the issues different in MP and UP?
They are different as well as the same because it’s a national election. There are national issues and there are local issues. In UP, the issues are the complete collapse of state government infrastructure in health, education and law and order.also, the payment of arrears of sugarcane farmers. In MP, we have implemented loan waiver for Rs 40,000 crore and given bonus on wheat.
What has more traction: national security or jobs?
At the end of the day, the key issue in the country is jobs, jobs and jobs. I am using the term at the widest level, whether it’s jobs for youth, income level of farmers, income levels of MSMEs…across the board, the refrain is the same — empower us to empower ourselves. The only thing the Modi government has done is destroy the spirit of entrepreneurship across India.
The BJP appeared to be in decline after losing in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and MP, but did the Pulwama attack change the narrative?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I think this time around, just like the people packed off non-performing BJP governments in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, they will do the same to the central government. We will talk on May 23 (counting day).
Like many Congress leaders, do you also feel the government should provide proof of the airstrikes in Balakot?
I am very clear. As far as national security is concerned, we speak in one voice, as Indian. There is no BJP, no Congress…the spirit of the tricolour and spirit of being a Bharatiya, we speak in one voice. On that issue, we will push whichever government is in power, we will make sure national security is never compromised, but we stand as one with the nation. Whoever is in power will give adequate response to those who create terror in our nation.
Has the Congress promised the moon in its manifesto?
The Congress believes in making promises that it can deliver. People said we promised the moon in MP (the promise of loan waiver), but we have delivered on the ground. We will do the same at the Centre. No government in the world has thought of the NYAY scheme. It will be a Rs 3.60 lakh-crore safety net. We were in government when MNREGA was brought in. It’s eulogised across the world for the rural sector.
Will the promise not to treat the failure to repay a loan as a criminal offence encourage people to wilfully default?
We are very clear as far as MP is concerned, loans that were not repaid up to a certain cut-off date and up to Rs 2 lakh were to be waived. It’s a civil offence. Why should it be treated as a criminal offence? When a corporate defaults, is it a criminal offence? This is the problem. The law has to be the same for everyone.
How different is it to contest Lok Sabha polls when your party is ruling the state?
I certainly think it’s much better than having an Opposition government. In a short span of time, a huge number of steps were taken to meet promises made in the manifesto. It will benefit all the contestants.
Are you ready to contest from Indore as suggested by some Congress leaders?
I have said it must be whatever the party decides and at the same time, it should be up to the candidate too. The rule applies to me as it does to everyone.
Will the Congress form a government on its own?
I am not a jyotish (astrologer), the public will decide, but I have a very strong feeling that this will be the end of BJP government and the Congress will come back to power. We need a new government. A government that will repair the damage done by the Modi government to farmers, youths, national security… to every avenue of the edifice that symbolises our country. There is an atmosphere of intolerance. The country has always believed in diversity and it’s our strength. That edifice needs to be rebuilt and that will be the task of the Congress government
You champion the idea that a CM should hold office only once. Would you extend it to the Prime Minister’s chair also?
It’s my personal opinion. Whatever good you can do you should do in five years, but people may have a different opinion on this