A few hours before the colourful campaign for the Karnataka polls ended, Congress president Rahul Gandhi sat down at a hotel in the city along with CM Siddaramaiah and veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge to address the queries of the media to the many issues which had been raised during the course of the pitched battle. Here are the questions posed to him and his answers to them
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BJP led NDA's Rafale deal is far better than that of the previous UPA government. Comment.
The Rafale deal was better for his friends, not for the country as such. I agree with Mr Modi that it was a better deal compared to the UPA's deal. The question is for whom? It was a better deal for his friend, who is already debt-ridden to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore. The UPA had decided to pay Rs 700 crore per plane, whereas Mr Modi's deal is Rs 1,400 crore per plane. Yes sure, it is a better deal for his friend. All these statements of Mr Modi, indicate only one thing that he likes to distract if he is countered on issues. His businessman friend has never built a single plane in his life. It (the deal) has taken away thousands of jobs from Bengaluru youths. He didn't follow procedure, didn't ask the cabinet committee on security. Of course it’s a great deal, it’s a great, absolutely smashing deal for Mr Modi's business friend. You can see the effects of it, the amount of money they are throwing in this state for the campaign.
Mr Modi describes himself as poor and asserts that the Congress does not have anything to do with dalits, the party raise these issues only to politicise them.
Congress will raise these issues (dalit atrocities and harassment of women). At least we are raising them. Our primary concern is: why is the PM not raising
these questions? Why is he not concerned about these attacks by his own partymen? Dalits are being systematically targeted and harassed, so are women, so are minorities. Why is he keeping quiet on issues like Unnao or Rohit Vemula? We will raise these issues. That's our job.
BJP holds you (Mr Rahul) responsible for politicising rape cases. How do you view this?
Atrocities against women is a political issue. Rapes of women is a national issue. Who says it is not a political issue? It is absolutely a national issue. Are you telling me, if India's women are raped, politicians shouldn't discuss it? Mr Modi likes to discuss things like seaplanes and bullet trains. But he does not discuss the fundamental issues of Karnataka. What are the issues of Karnataka? I think they are pretty simple, helping the farmers, who have Rs 8,000 crore of loans. How much money has the PM given to farmers of India and Karnataka? He gives Rs 2,50,000 crore to the richest 15 industrialists in the country. He has not given a single rupee in debt waiver to farmers of India. This is something to be ashamed off.
Another fundamental issue- our PM comes and says he fights corruption, well, on his stage is Mr Yeddyurappa, the CM candidate, who has spent time in jail for stealing people's money, on the other side are the Reddy brothers, who have stolen as much money the Congress party allocated for MGNREGA scheme- Rs 35,000 crore- from Karnataka! They have stolen money from you (Karnataka). The PM has no answer why? None of his speeches talk about why he gave eight seats to the Reddy brothers. Why he doesn't explain to the people of Karnataka why Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has become Central Bureau of Illegal Mining and is being used to protect these people. These are the issues.
You visited a number of temples and maths, what message are you trying to send?
There are many ways in which our people express themselves. Our people have multiple religious and linguistic beliefs. As a leader of a political party, it is my job to stand with their beliefs. So, whoever invites me to whichever institute, I will go. I will go, because I respect their perspective. But I will not go to a single institution that is involved in dividing our society, spreading hatred and spreading anger. That is my position on visiting religious institutions. Now, what is interesting is that in the last 15 years, I have been visiting temples, mosques, gurudwaras and churches. I am visiting pretty much every religious institution, I come across. For some reason, the BJP doesn't like this. For some reason, the BJP gets uncomfortable when I go to a temple.
They call you ‘election Hindu’...
I don't think they understand the meaning of the term, Hindu. The term Hindu is a perspective, it is a viewpoint. It is something that is in the heart and it lives with
you throughout. That statement, election Hindu is a demonstration of how they (BJP) view their religion. I don't view things that way.
How do you respond to the allegation that the Congress has divided the Lingayats by seeking separate religion status?
There is a difference between helping a community to express themselves, empowering a community and crushing a community. What the BJP is doing, with the tribals, dalits and minorities is crushing them, humiliating them, killing them and dividing country. We, the Congress aim to empower people.
On the Doklam issue- it continues to be contentious. What are your views?
He is the leader of our country, I expected that our PM, during his visit to China, would go as a leader of our country and stand right there and speak about Doklam. The PM went to China after the Chinese entered Doklam and he doesn't mention a word about Doklam. He didn't say a word. Did the PM have a conversation with the Chinese President, with no agenda? Are you telling me that there is no agenda? There is an agenda it's called Doklam, there is an agenda it's called Maldives, there is an agenda it's called Nepal. Of couse there is an agenda. What does he mean by going to China and having a discussion without any agenda. The agenda is: we are surrounded on all sides. That's the agenda. But you (media) don't like to raise that. I don't know why? You guys are uncomfortable.
Do you think it has not been taken up the way it should have been?
Absolutely not. Our foreign policy has been completely decimated. It is because our PM views the foreign policy as an individual exercise. he is under the impression that he can go and have a personal conversation with the president of China or Nepal and it will magically be done. There are huge forces involved in this and the PM needs to take into account the extremely talented people in the external affairs ministry. The PM needs to carry these people with him. Are there any discussions going on with the finance minister or defence minister to come up with strategies? No, it’s a one man show. I am passionate about this China issue. Our central challenge is to create jobs for our youth. We are in an environment, we have to manage our foreign policy with extreme care. I am very passionate, when I see fundamental blunders being made. I saw a video of Pakistan, where Chinese troop were marching along with Pakistani troops. What does that tell you? I see a complete change in the position of Russia with regard to
India. Russians are supplying arms and ammunition to Pakistan, which they have never done before. So there is disaster being played on the foreign policy front.
What is the Congress party stand on the Mahadayi issue in the context of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's remarks made during the Goa elections sometime ago.
It is the prime minister who has to resolve the issue. We are with the PM in this regard and want the issue to be resolved as soon as possible, amicably and fairly.
The PM has targeted you in many ways, about your Italian ancestry. How do you respond as an individual not as political leader.
I can respond with a story. Many years ago in this country, Buddha was sitting with his disciples and a person came and started abusing him, shouting at him and saying nasty things to him. After an hour or two, that person left. So, the Buddha's disciples said to Buddha, what have you done? The Buddha said, he got me the gift of anger and I didn't want it, I didn't take it. After some time, he went away. So, Mr Modi has anger inside him. He has anger for everybody. Not only for me. I attract that anger because he sees a threat from me. But, his anger is his problem, it's not my problem. My problem is how to help people of this country. Thank you.
How would you respond to the view on your mother's origin.
My mother is an Italian. My mother has also lived the larger part of her life in India.
She is more Indian than many Indian people I see. My mother has sacrificed for this country. My mother has suffered for this country. It shows the quality of the PM, when he makes this type of comment. It shows the quality of the man. I am happy to let him to do so. If he enjoys himself, if he likes it, Welcome ! Have a nice day!
We are seeing 20+ BJP ministers coming to campaign here.....what is your reaction?
I will tell you- panic! They have panicked because now they are noticing and realising that the Congress party is doing things differently. The Congress party showed them what it is capable of in Gujarat and now the Congress has clearly demonstrated, what it is capable of in Karnataka. I am happy that many ministers have come as this is a fight between the spirit of Karnataka and RSS. We are very clear that we don't want a barrage of leaders coming from outside and fighting for us. We are dependent on an extremely solid leadership from Karnataka.
Mr Modi accused the Congress of rigging due to fear of losing the elections?
A man says what is inside in his heart. He is absolutely right and convinced that he is going to lose Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the 2019 (polls) also.
What are your chances of you becoming PM?
Mr Modi distracts people, this election has nothing to do with Rahul Gandhi this election has to do with the future of Karnataka. Mr Modi, has nothing to say about the future of Karnataka, so he likes to distract. so I am not going engage in that distraction. This election is not about me. This election is not about the PM. This election is about the spirit of Karnataka. I feel this is highly disrespectful- having a discussion about me becoming PM. Frankly speaking, it is insulting to youngsters, farmers and voters of this state. I say this, when I see the PM come and try to make this election a battle between me and him. We will not engage on his lines.