Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has upped the election pitch by announcing special packages to target voter segments in Uttar Pradesh to ministerial interference over spending in welfare programs. In a candid chat with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on her programme Kahiye Janab, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid talks about Rahul Gandhi as the new face of the Congress party in UP, Lokpal Bill fiasco, Mayawati and lots more.
Swati: Being a good lawyer yourself, tell me what is the essence of a government, which represents the people of India - to run away from voting in Parliament?
Khurshid: You are talking on the same lines as our Opposition leaders speak. I feel the common man of India lacks the basic knowledge and understanding. Don’t they know that be it voting or proving majority in Parliament, all this has to be done in the Lok Sabha. Didn’t we try to get a constitutional status for Lokpal but failed to get 2/3rd majority? Don’t they know that BJP back-tracked on its stand of getting a constitutional status for Lokpal?
Swati: Be it the Lokpal issue, FDI, your ally Mamata or Mayawati, there is a feeling that the existence of the government is somewhere marred. Mamata Banerjee openly claims that you cannot win elections without her and even shows displeasure in the government’s version of Lokpal. Still Congress party says that she is a ‘valued’ ally. What do you have to say on this?
Khurshid: Mamata might be very clear in her stand regarding an issue, but I don’t feel that she uses harsh language. She reflects ‘Mamata’ just like her name (smiles).
Swati: As per indications, are you planning a post-poll alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP to replace your ‘turbulent’ relationship with your ‘valued’ ally Mamata Banerjee?
Khurshid: (smiles) I don’t know from where you are getting such indications. We have not said anything like that. As you know, Rahul Gandhi is leading us in UP polls. Has he ever mentioned that Congress is looking for or pursuing politics of compromise? He only said that we will campaign robustly in UP elections, fight, win and then we will change the face of the state in the next five years.
Swati: What are your chances of success in the upcoming UP elections?
Khurshid: I cannot say about how many seats will exactly come our way. As per surveys and opinion polls that are coming up, Congress will get around 18-19% of seats. As per my experience, we will cross 22-23% mark and then we will actually come into the game. This will give us an edge. And this time you will see that Congress will form the next government in UP.
Swati: Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly claiming, “I lost earlier, but I came back. No matter even if I lose again, I will surely rise again”. Do you think that Congress has been fair enough to Rahul by putting his future at stake in the upcoming UP polls?
Khurshid: See, I would certainly be happy that if a sacrifice is to be made, then it should come from our side as even if we lose, the party will keep on functioning smoothly. So, we can just fight in the elections without worrying about the results as it is not in our hand. If we win, there will be celebrations for sure, but if we lose and people mock at us, then it is up to them.
Swati: You have worked with Rahul Gandhi and even with his mother Sonia Gandhi. So, what do you have to say about Rahul’s decision to put his future at stake in the upcoming polls? How do you see it?
Khurshid: I feel it is very brave on Rahul’s part. He talks about bringing a change in the current political system. Now, this change doesn’t just refer to becoming more computer savvy, talking about 21st century, liberalisation, but an overall change. All this has happened before also. His father also thrived for the same and Rahul is also walking on the same path but with a new vigour. Rahul has a view that the modernisation wave has swept the country very fast but in the process, there are many people who have been left behind. So, it is our job to hold their hands and bring them forward. So, UP is a small laboratory for this test. I feel Rahul Gandhi is a perfect example of a good leader of ‘Modern India’.
Swati: Talking about UP politics, where caste system is the core issue, Rahul Gandhi is speaking on the same lines as Bal Thackeray by asking people not to migrate to Delhi, Mumbai and beg there and instead work in UP itself. What’s your take on his statement?
Khurshid: I feel it is a completely different dialogue. His ‘beggar’ statement has been misconstrued. Everybody shouts saying, “we will change so you will change, we will get this, you will get that” but, Rahul is the one who said ‘UP will change’. He has established a belief amongst people. He just wants to spread the message asking people to empower themselves and rise and fight for their own future.
Swati: Will the party be able to implement Rahul Gandhi’s ideas and beliefs?
Khurshid: Rahul is a tuff task master. So, it is definitely a challenge for us. He has high expectations from us and moreover he believes in the theory of working more rather than speaking.
Swati: What about Mayawati’s claims that the elephant (BSP symbol) is giving nightmares to Rahul Gandhi and it will demolish the Congress party?
Khurshid: (laughs) You see when an elephant gets scared, then it demolishes itself rather than posing any threat to others. So, I feel the elephant is afraid now.
Swati: At this time, there is a leadership crisis at the Centre, a sort of a vacuum. What do you have to say about this?
Khurshid: If the party is discussing various options available regarding a particular policy, then this doesn’t mean that they are fighting. On the contrary, if they stop discussing, then people say that the government is quiet and not concerned. So, it is not right to say this.
Adapted by Shruti Saxena