Congress President Rahul Gandhi has claimed that Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were not on the same page with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that the entire party was waiting for the day to push him aside.

Gandhi, in an interview with the Hindustan Times published on Tuesday, said that in his political career, he had never seen the kind of unity among Opposition parties that exists today. He said the Opposition has come together because they were united on matters such as job crisis and farm distress and did not want to let the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Modi “destroy” India’s institutions. However, there was a visible division in the BJP, he said.

“If I speak to [Nitin] Gadkari, [Sushma] Swaraj and Rajnath Singh and their entire leadership, I wouldn’t be surprised to find absolute rejection for Mr Narendra Modi’s style of functioning,” Gandhi told the newspaper. “So, the division is actually in the BJP and what is keeping that division publicly out of sight is fear. Privately, it is visible.”

He said Modi has not understood that “Mr Modi is only Mr Modi’s leader”. “That’s it. His entire party is waiting for the day to push him aside. That day is not far,” he claimed.

On Monday, Gandhi took on the BJP by praising Gadkari for being the “only one in the party with some guts”. However, the Union minister was quick to snub the Congress president, saying he did not need a ‘certificate of courage’ from him.

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Commenting on the ongoing tussle between the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, Gandhi said every institution in India is facing Modi’s “autocratic backlash”. “Mr Modi believes that he is the Lord of India, just like the British believed,” he said.

He said the Opposition’s primary objective is to defeat the RSS-BJP combine and “defend India’s constitutional values”. “Once goal number one is achieved, then we will decide who is going to be the Prime Minister. This is a tool that is used by the BJP to divide the Opposition. We are not going to fall for that,” he added.

Ayodhya matter

On the Ayodhya matter, the Congress chief dismissed allegations that his party has not come out with its stand on the construction of Ram temple. Gandhi said his party respects India’s institutional and judicial processes.

“This matter is sub judice. It would not be fair for me to opine as the highest court in the country is deliberating on it,” Gandhi told the newspaper. “There is absolute clarity. I would say that what the Supreme Court decides is what the Congress and everyone will accept.”

Gandhi also dismissed the charge that his frequent temple visits are being seen as “soft Hindutva”. “What is soft Hindutva? Where did you get the idea?” he said. “If you asked Buddha or you asked Mahaveer or you asked Guru Nanak, or any of the great people of this country to go to a temple – do you think they would decline? Guru Nanak went to Mecca.”

Rafale jet deal and other topics

Gandhi claimed Modi’s anti-corruption image that he fought the 2014 elections with has been affected by the controversy around Rafale jet deal. The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi-led government of buying overpriced jets from France, and also of helping Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence secure an offset contract under the deal after taking it away from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

“I still can’t understand why Mr Narendra Modi signed this deal in such a blatant manner violating defence procurement procedure and bypassing the Cabinet Committee on Security,” Gandhi said. “Mr Modi’s lie that he is a crusader against corruption has been destroyed. Mr Modi is corruption. Mr Modi is protecting the very forces he claimed he would fight.”

On minimum guaranteed income to the poor, Gandhi said it was a commitment that the Congress will protect the weak. Last month, Gandhi had announced that his party would implement the scheme if it was voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections later this year.

“It is going to be done in a progressive manner and it is going to be well thought through and carried out...We have been doing the homework for six months now. We are going to broaden that discussion and create a policy that will work.”

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