Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that his party is helping the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh in constituencies where it lacks strong candidates. “It is pretty clear that in Uttar Pradesh, a secular formation is winning the elections,” he told NDTV in an interview.
Gandhi also denied speculation that his party is not trying to win the 2019 elections and instead focusing on the long-term. He said that in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is a threat to the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party. “But I am extremely respectful to Mayawati [the BSP chief] and Akhilesh Yadav [the Samajwadi Party chief],” he added. He said the main aim in Uttar Pradesh is to defeat the BJP.
The Congress chief put the onus on the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party for the failure to form an alliance with his party. The BSP chief has criticised the Congress as much as the BJP during the election campaign and called them “birds of the same feather”. Mayawati claimed on Tuesday that the Congress has been saying in Uttar Pradesh rallies that it is better the BJP wins seats rather than the SP-BSP and Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance.
Gandhi claimed that after four phases of Lok Sabha elections, it is clear that Congress, not the BJP, is going to win the polls. “Narendra Modi is not going to be the prime minister, guaranteed,” Gandhi said.
He also asserted that he never gave the impression that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would contest the polls from Varanasi. “It was a decision that was made long before,” he said. “Priyanka was not going to fight from Varanasi.”
The Congress chief said the people of India will decide who will be the next prime minister. “It is not my place to say I want to be the prime minister, or I don’t want to be the prime minister,” he added. “I have 100% faith in the wisdom of the people of the country.”
The Congress president added that his party was ready to form an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. “We had a clear commitment to Mr Kejriwal [Delhi chief minister], we were ready to do a 4-3 alliance,” he said. “He agreed to that alliance upfront, and then suddenly brought Haryana and Punjab into the game.”
Gandhi said the Congress had formed alliances in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. He said he had gone against his party’s wishes in Delhi by backing an alliance. However, he added that there could have been no benefit to the Congress from an alliance with AAP in Haryana.
Gandhi claimed that Modi’s clean image has been shattered due to the Rafale jet deal. He asserted that internal party surveys show that 67% of the Indian public believes there is something fishy about the Rafale deal.
Gandhi said he had apologised to the Supreme Court for attributing to it his “Chowkidar chor hai” remark. “I put words in the mouth of the Supreme Court, and I was wrong, so I apologised,” he said. “There is absolutely no apology to Modi or anyone else. Chowkidar chor hai.”
Asked about Modi’s nationalist pitch and focus on the surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes, Gandhi said the prime minister had promised two crore jobs a year, right crop prices for farmers, loan waivers and Rs 15 lakh in every bank account. The Congress president claimed that Modi had forced his cabinet ministers to put “Chowkidar” on their Twitter handles.
The Congress chief claimed that there is a “massive upsurge” in India against the “type of government” that is being run in the country. He said that unemployment, demonetisation, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, farmer suicides and the “stumbling” of India’s “economic miracle” are the causes of the feeling of disenchantment in the country.
Gandhi said the Congress’ strength is that it listened to the people and could respect differing viewpoints. He said the party’s weakness was that it could be very disorganised.
The Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The fourth phase of polling ended on April 29. The results for all phases will be declared on May 23.