Keeping his cards close to his chest, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said he has made the decision whether he wants to become the next party president or not and asserted he will give his reasons if he does not contest the upcoming elections.
Mr Gandhi was asked a slew of questions at a press conference on whether he would assume the mantle of the party president and he repeatedly said he would give an answer if he does not enter the fray, indicating that the likelihood of him sticking to his stance of not taking up party chief’s post is more.
He also said the Bharat Jodo Yatra will help in forging Opposition unity even though that is a separate exercise.
It is the responsibility of the entire Opposition to come together and discussions are in progress, he added.
The Kanyakumari-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra of the Congress began on Wednesday.
Mr Gandhi said he is not leading the yatra but is only participating in it.
Asked if he would become the Congress president, he said, “Whether I become president or not, this will become very clear when the presidential elections of the Congress party take place.” “Wait till that time when that time happens you will see and if I don’t stand, you can ask me ‘why didn’t you stand’ and I will answer the question for you,” Mr Gandhi told reporters.
He, however, asserted that he has “very clearly” decided what he is going to do. “There is no confusion in my mind about what I am going to do,” he asserted.
On being pressed on the issue by reporters, Mr Gandhi reiterated that the election of the Congress president is going to happen and when that takes place, there will be clarity.
The president’s election will take place and your questions will be answered, he told reporters.
Mr Gandhi had resigned as the Congress president in 2019 taking moral responsibility for the party’s poll drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. Sonia Gandhi was appointed as the interim Congress president after Rahul Gandhi refused to withdraw his resignation.
Nominations for the Congress president’s election will begin on September 24 and will end on September 30, and in case of a contest the election will be held on October 17 and the counting on October 19.
The former Congress president also responded to the BJP over its ‘Parivar Bachao’ remark, saying the yatra is being undertaken to undo the damage done by the BJP-RSS of spreading hatred in the country.
He said everybody has an opinion, the BJP has one and so does the RSS.
“They are free to have. For us in the Congress, this is a journey and an attempt at understanding what is going on in India and an attempt at undoing the damages that have been done by BJP and RSS,” he said.
Responding to a question on leading the yatra, Mr Gandhi said to put it in prospective, the Congress has decided to do the padyatra across the country and as a member of the party and a person who agrees with its ideology, he is participating it. “I don’t see any contradiction in my participation in this yatra,” Mr Gandhi said.
On whether the yatra will strengthen the Congress and lead to its revival, Gandhi said the goal of the march is to connect with the people, counter the “damage that the RSS-BJP has done to the country and the hatred they have spread”.
“Now, if the Congress party benefits from the yatra, that is good,” he added.
Asked if the battle of ideologies he often talks about has entered a decisive phase, Mr Gandhi said this battle has been going on for a couple of thousand years now between two different visions. “There have always been two different visions of India. One vision, which is rigid, controlling and another vision, which is plural, open minded and I think, this battle will continue. We are playing our role in this fight,” he said.
Mr Gandhi also alleged that the BJP has taken control of all the institutions of this country and have inserted their people in most of the institutions and they pressurize through these institutions. “You know the role of the CBI, of the ED, of the Income tax department. So, we are not fighting anymore a political party, we used to fight a political party. Now, the fight is not between one political party and another political party. Now the fight is between the structure of the Indian state and the opposition and everybody understands this,” he said.
“This is not an easy fight. This is a difficult fight. Media is not with the opposition. Not because you don’t want to be, but, because you are under pressure, your owners have particular relationships, so this is not an easy fight and a lot of people don’t want to fight, lot of people feel, why get caught up. It is easier, to let go, make peace with the BJP, fold hands in front of them, and your life will be easier,” he said.
Mr Gandhi asserted this was neither his training nor his character.
“My character is to fight for a certain idea of India, certain notion of this country and there are many-many people in the Congress Party and in the opposition, who are convinced of this fact,” he said.
He also said India is not living in harmony and the country is divided along lines of religion and states. “People do not have employment; people do not have work, that is very clear. 2 or 3 big businesses are controlling everything; the third richest men is now in India, who is probably going to become the richest very soon, close confidante of the leader of the country, that is not harmonious. You have massive price rise, that is not harmonious. So, for me, India is a conversation between its people and that conversation has broken down,” Mr Gandhi said. Asked about the names of cities, roads railway stations being changed, he said there is “total bankruptcy” in vision for what is to be done in future, so to divert attention, names are changed.
His remark came a day after Prime Minister inaugurated the newly-christened Kartavya Path, the stretch of road from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate earlier known as Rajpath.
Mr Gandhi said it is not just the government but deeper than that – India is lacking now a vision for itself.
He also said that the Congress is not against corporate India but against powerful monopolies and unfairness.
Mr Gandhi said he agreed to join this yatra because he believes in the ideals of the Congress and partially because he thought personally it will be a very good experience for him.
“I thought it would be worthwhile to do that from a personal journey perspective. For me it is both these things. Of course these days in politics that is not fashionable. It is a different way if thinking about things, it is a different way of looking at things,” he said.
“Hopefully I will get some understanding about myself and get some understanding about this beautiful country from this yatra and I think three-four months later, I will be wiser,” he added.