Rahul Gandhi made his political debut in 2004. Today, after 10 years, he is the vice-president of the Congress and is managing the party's campaign at a time when the party faces some serious challenges. Edited excerpts of an interview with Aaj Tak: You've been touring the country extensively. What is the response you have received?
The situation varies from state to state. The campaign is pretty good; the result should reflect this.
Are you saying the exit polls aren't reflecting the ground reality?
In 2004, the exit polls predicted the Congress would lose. There was much talk about the India Shining marketing campaign. In 2009, they said the same. But the results were contradictory. The marketing is good. The BJP knows how to market itself. But in the end, the result will speak.
If the BJP's marketing is good, why hasn't the Congress party been able to replicate it? You've been in power for 10 years, but this election has become Narendra Modi-centric.
The Congress vote base primarily comprises the poor. The BJP vote base consists of corporates. As a result, their marketing abilities are better. Our ability to get results, our programmes and our ability to establish direct contact with the people is better.
Generally, in every campaign, they are able to generate more noise. Examine any BJP campaign---they are high on noise, but the results speak otherwise. If you ask psephologists, they will agree that the bias towards the Congress is strong. The poor, the weak prefer to vote for the Congress.
Are you saying you are confident of the Congress getting a majority?
We should get a majority. But ours is an ideological fight. There are two ideologies. We believe in empowering as many people as possible. We talk about decentralisation. We talk about giving people their rights. They (the BJP) believe in concentration of power.
They want maximum power to be vested in one person and think that's how the entire country should be run. The philosophical approach is very different. If you look at the Congress's achievements, they would be instances of when the people have been empowered. This has been a trend since the Freedom movement. At that time, people were empowered.
During the Green Revolution, the people were empowered. During the telecom revolution, we gave them power. Now, with the rights-based paradigm, we have empowered the people. Our objective is the country should be run by as many people as possible.
What about your welfare programmes?
I'm talking about a support system…Roads should be built; schools and colleges should be built. But the poor cannot sustain on roads; they need a minimum support base. That's why we repeatedly talk about basic rights-right to food and right to employment.
In Uttar Pradesh, I have worked a lot with the poor…We want a partnership between the poor and the business class. Both must co-exist. The BJP thinks the entire focus should be on three or four industrialists and everything else will automatically be sorted. It believes in the trickle-down effect.
Some believe your developmental model does not have a connect with the aspirational class.
We have a two-pronged approach. We have developed this to a great degree. If you examine the number of roads built, power generation, water, etc, the Congress has fared better than the NDA govt.
They talk about roads, but we have built three times the number of roads they claim to have built...We are collaborating with Japan. We are trying to build the backbone of this country on the basis of manufacturing. Today, everything is 'made in China'; we want to change that to 'made in India'. And, we are doing that.
This time, Modi is talking about the Gujarat model.
'The reality is we have been in government for the last 10 years. You cannot change that. That, by itself, is a huge achievement. After the Nehru govt, the Manmohan Singh government enjoyed the longest tenure. I cannot dispute the fact that there will be some anti-incumbency.
Modi says through the Gujarat model, he has ensured 24-hour water supply, power, connectivity, world class roads, investment, etc.
Gujarat first stood on its feet on the basis of small businesses. Amul, the co-operative movement, is what Gujarat draws its strength from. Let's look at the Gujarat model-A business whose turnover was ~3,000 crore 10 years ago is now worth ~40,000 crore.
Are you talking about Adani?
I don't want to take names. He's worth ~40,000 crore. How did this happen? Land the size of Vadodara was given to him. Are you aware at what cost? ~300 crore. Coastline the length of Mumbai's was given to him. Now, the textile industry is finished.
I have interacted with diamond cutters of Gujarat. They are perishing. The farmers are crying. The state has the most labour disputes.
Surely, your government also faces the charges of crony capitalism and corruption.
Corruption is India's reality. But if we have to combat it, we have to stop talking and start acting. How will that change happen? With an institutional frameworks, not rhetoric. You read the BJP manifesto; they say we will fight against corruption.
But point me to where they specify their strategy. What will they do to act against corruption? We brought the Lok Pal Bill…We brought the land acquisition Bill.
You've been influencing decisions. A lot of people say you should've joined the government…the issues you are pressing on would have received more attention. Do you want to be prime minister?
If you read our Constitution, it says the prime minister will be chosen by members of Parliament. What we see nowadays is not really constitutional. MPs choosing a PM after the elections is constitutional. If our MPs choose me, I will not back down from taking on the responsibility. But the people have not voted yet. I'm a servant to the country and I work for the people.
The most severe charge against you is the economy went downhill during the UPA's term-from nine per cent to five per cent.
This is all marketing glitz. The truth is in 10 years, we have delivered much higher growth compared to the five years the NDA was in power. At the end of the day, there has been a global recession and it has caused a slowdown in India, too.
But if you compare, we have fared a lot better than the BJP. The business class needs to understand that we will move ahead with this partnership.
The future of India is bright. If you look at other countries, you will realise India is doing very well. The rest of the world is in dire straits. China is at No 1 and India is at No 2.
If we work by forging a partnership between industry and the poor, we will beat China in five-seven years. But if a Muslim fights a Hindu, or the poor fight the rich or if a Maharashtrian fights a person from Uttar Pradesh, growth of the country will be stalled.
People in Amethi complain there is no power and roads are bad. You are the sitting MP from there.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party is in power. The responsibility of roads, electricity and schools lies with the state government. The central government has built national highways and we have done a good job. We have done a lot of work for and with women in Amethi. We have opened bank accounts for 1,000,000-1,200,000 women and it has changed their lives.
Right now, power is in the hands of a select few. The leaders of the Congress, the youth have to decentralise this and empower the common man.
There is a category in the nomination form that asks one to specify his/her matrimonial status. When will you fill it as 'married'?
When I find the right girl, it'll get filled. It is true I don't get much time. But it's about destiny.