Full text of Rahul Gandhi's interview - part 4
Congress vice president and poll campaign chief Rahul Gandhi opens up in an interview with Times Now Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. For the first time after his political debut in 2004, Rahul Gandhi takes direct questions on wide range of subjects on Frankly Speaking with Arnab.
Here is the part 4 of full transcript of the 1 hour 20 minute long interview
Arnab: Mr. Gandhi what do you think of the Aam Admi Party and why are your views constantly shifting on the AAP, on the 8th of December after the loss you quite candidly spoke about traditional and non-traditional parties - non-traditional parties being those who have involved a lot of people. Suddenly I find that now seem to be over critical of the AAP, I presume you were talking of them when you said that there are people who can give haircuts to the Bald, were you referring to them when you said parties who over market themselves, which parties were you talking about?
Rahul: The work that I have done in the Congress party, the work that I have done in the youth Congress and the work that I am going to do in the future is about bringing in youngsters into the party, strengthening processes, strengthening candidate selection process and strengthening policy processes. I made a comment about the AAP where I said that there is something that we can learn from them and what I felt that we could learn from them is that they reached out to people in a particular way that was good, there are things that I don't think we should take away from them. I think we have fundamental strengths in the Congress party and it is something that we have been working on for 3-4 years now and the real power of the Congress party is the depth of the organization and you can't makes changes by destroying things.
Arnab: But in a recent interview Mr. Chidambaram said he felt the decision to give support to the AAP was unnecessary and that the opinion was divided on this within the Congress. Having seen what you have seen in recent days and the chaos that followed in Delhi, do you agree with that view? Do you feel in retrospect that support to the AAP is something you shouldn't have done? Please be candid and frank with me on this.
Rahul: I think that as far as I am concerned that the AAP won an election in Delhi and we thought that we would assist them
Arnab: They got less seats than the BJP
Rahul: We thought we would assist them, because our party felt we should give them a chance to prove themselves and one can see what they are doing and one can see exactly how much they have proved themselves.
Arnab: What is your view on Arvind Kejriwal?
Rahul: He is a leader of an opposition party like many others, what we have to do as the Congress party and again in front of us is an election, what we have to do is 3 things. One is we have to transform ourselves, we have bring in youngsters, we have to give them space. Two is we have to look at manufacturing, we have already set up the corridors North, South, East & West, how we can take the energy of the Indian people and build a manufacturing superhouse... That is what I think the real issues are.
Arnab: Are you using the AAP to split the Anti Congress vote bank, to keep Mr. Modi out of power
Rahul: You are implying that we have brought the AAP...
Arnab: I am not implying, there is a theory that the Congress is propping up the AAP and keeping them on an extended leash so that they somehow divide anti-Congress vote bank. Had the AAP not been there the BJP would have done better and that experiment could be extended?
Rahul: I think you underestimate the power of the Congress party, I don't think the Congress party could even do that if they wanted to. The Congress party is an extremely powerful system and all the Congress party needs to do is bring in younger fresher faces in the election which is what we are going to do and we are going to win the election.
Arnab: You will win the election?
Rahul: Yeah, I will win the election
Arnab: You are confident about that?
Rahul : Reasonably confident
Arnab: And if you don't win do you take full responsibility for it ?
Rahul: If we don't win, I am the VP of the party of course I will take responsibility for it..
Arnab: If the AAP goes against Sheila Dikshit in the CWG scam, will you continue to support them?
Rahul: I have already said that regardless of who the person is, if there is an issue of corruption the law should take its own course, that's my position.
Arnab: Mr. Gandhi I now want to understand a little bit on your personal side, my first question is that you have faced a lot of criticism, how do you handle criticism? People say he has his heart in the right place but is he a vote catcher, they pull out all the recent state elections UP, Delhi, MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, they say he has not despite playing an active role achieved considerable electoral success. They are questioning your vote winning ability, what would you say to them Mr. Gandhi?
Rahul: I would say when we win an election, when we won Uttarakhand, Himachal and when we won Karnataka , I am not involved, when we lose an election I am the cause of it. But once again I think what the Congress Party need to do is tap its potential, what the Congress party needs to do is change the way the its organisation is structured and look at changing the way politics in this country is structured, that is where I think we should head. Questions about whether we have supported AAP or not supported AAP, frankly it is a ridiculous notion. It is ridiculous that we would construct the AAP...
Arnab: You supported them, you gave them a lease of life so that they divide the Anti Congress vote
Rahul: That ascribes huge power to the Congress party, I think the Congress party's strength comes when we open up when we bring in new people, that is historically been the case and that is what I want to do.
Arnab: Mr. Gandhi why do you keep invoking your family name. I have seen you refer, with respect, to your father and your grandmother repeatedly. Now Mr. Gandhi some would say you should be careful of doing that because when you invoke your family and its achievement from the Congress, you can be accused of touting your family background for your own political career and the second is you would be re-entrenching yourself in the role of being a dynast at a time when being a dynast is not seen to be a good thing? Do you agree?
Rahul: I don't actually keep invoking my family name, I have mentioned my family name once or twice and then people report that. The real issue is that I didn't choose to be born in this family, I didn't sign up and say that I like to be born in this family it happened, so the choice in front of me is pretty simple I can either turn around and say okay I will just walk away from this thing and leave it alone or I can say I can try and improve something. Pretty much every single thing I have done in my political career has been to bring in youngsters , has been to open up, has been to democratise. I am absolutely against the concept of Dynasty, anybody who knows me knows that and understands that. But you are not going to wish away Dynasty in a closed system, you have to open the system. Dynasty or children of politicians becoming powerful happens in the BJP, it happens in the DMK, it happens in the SP, it happens in the Congress party, it happens everywhere.
Arnab: Then how are you different?
Rahul: You have to go into why it is happening.
Arnab: It is happening because dynasties are allowed to proliferate, it is because a Scindia's son is a minister a Deora's son is a minister a Pilot's son is a minister. A PM's son is the Congress VP that is dynasty. Change is not happening at the top, you want change at the bottom. There are people out there who are saying that we want change at the top.
Rahul: The reason children of politicians keep getting repositioned is because the system is closed. You are not going to change that without opening the system, you are not going to open the system without having processes, the system is not going to open by waving a wand and saying Abracadabra let us open the system. It is going to take time, it is going to take effort and it is going to take structure. That is the work that I do. That is the work I spent a whole bunch of my time doing that is the revolutionary work I have done in the IYC and the NSUI that is the work we are doing when we talk of an open manifesto. That is the work we are doing when we talk of 15 parliamentary seats being chosen.
Arnab: Only 15?
Rahul: Absolutely, because one needs to set up the systems, if I was to suddenly launch into 543 seats directly elected by our people the system would explode. What I need to do is I need to set up an idea, test the idea, run the idea, if it makes sense, if it works then move it to the rest of the party. The step we have taken with those 15 primaries, we get that much of a little piece in the newspaper, but that is probably the biggest political step taken in this country. It is a huge-huge step and I think those are the types of questions one needs to ask, one doesn't ask them, one asks questions that don't actually reach to the heart of the issue. You are talking about India, we have had a 1 hour conversation here, you haven't asked me 1 question about how we are going to build this country, how we are going to take this country forward, you haven't asked me one question on how we are going to empower our people, you haven't asked me one question on what we are going to do for youngsters, you are not interested in that.
Arnab: That wrong Mr. Gandhi, if I wanted to know that I would hear a Rahul Gandhi speech, this is not a Rahul Gandhi speech this is a Rahul Gandhi interview. Mr. Gandhi I see that you have this knack of trying to throw the question back at me, I can only tell you Mr. Gandhi I am going to ask the questions. My question is how do you handle this. The other view is that you are a fragile person, you get affected by criticism. Subramanian Swamy has raised questions on your degrees, he says why does he claim he has an M.Phil from Cambridge; Cambridge has no record of his thesis, you can't get an Phil without a thesis, he says yes he went to Harvard when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, someone gave 11 million dollars to Harvard medical school, donors quota, once you enter Harvard said to him we don't think you belong here, so he dropped out. He has questioned both your degrees, I want you today...
Rahul: Were you in Cambridge
Arnab: I was at Oxford
Rahul: But you spent some time at Cambridge?
Arnab: I was a visiting fellow at Cambridge for a while.
Rahul: So where were you at Cambridge?
Arnab: At Sydney Sussex college
Rahul: So I was at Trinity in Cambridge, I spent a year there, I did my M.Phil there.
Arnab: I want your response to Subramanian Swamy, how do you deal with this?
Rahul: You want me to show you my degree, I can show you my degree
Arnab: Would you like to show him your degree?
Rahul: He has probably seen my degree, I have given a sworn affidavit saying I that I have got these degrees, If I am lying on these affidavits let him take the legal process and solve it , what more do you want me to do.
Arnab: You challenge him
Rahul: Why should I challenge him?
Arnab: He's attacked you personally
Rahul: He's been attacking my family for 40 years. Why should I challenge him?
Arnab: Does it affect you Mr. Gandhi when you are attacked at a personal level and how do you choose not to respond? How do you bury your head in the sand and say this is not happening? It's happening to you. You are being criticised
Rahul: I respond by understanding why I'm being attacked. I'm being attacked because I'm doing things that are dangerous to the system. I'm being attacked because I'm asking questions that are dangerous to the system. And I'm not asking superficial questions. I'm not asking questions over here (pointing at the ceiling). I'm asking questions over there (pointing to the ground). And everybody understands that this fellow here is not just a superficial chap who talks. This fellow over here is thinking deeply and is thinking long term. That's why I'm attacked. I understand that. And frankly, attack me all you want. Beat me to death. It's not going to stop me. I'm going to keep doing it. And I'm going to ask the questions that are relevant. And you know what, I have thousand people in the Congress party, two thousand people in the party who are working on this stuff. They're not letting go. And I'm proud of them, they're not letting go. It doesn't matter. Keep throwing stones at us. That's the point. The point is, people who are attacked in this system, the people who are actually attacked, are the ones fighting the system. You understand that? They're not the people who sit and ask, the superficial questions. They're the ones who're actually saying, let's do something about this system. They're the ones who are going deep into the system and understanding that this is the crux of it. And the crux of it, Arnab I've told you. The crux of it is how we choose candidates. The crux of it is how we make policies. That's the crux of it. The thing is, you don't like discussing it. You like discussing stuff that really, doesn't go to the core and I'm a serious politician. I'm not somebody who's here to get power, or make money or something. I'm somebody who's here, who's seen what the system does to people. I've seen, and I can give you example after example which is on my mind. But I'm not going to fight the superficial battle. I just am not. It's not interesting to me. I'm going to fight a battle. I'm going to fight a deep battle. I'm going to take the youngsters of this country and line them up. And I'm going to then take the system on. Don't forget that.
Arnab: You don't have a thick skin, Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Politicians need to have a thick skin.
Rahul: If I don't have a thick skin right now, it'll get thick
Arnab: You say you're a very serious politician. I assure you Mr. Gandhi, I'm a very serious journalist. Therefore when I interview Rahul Gandhi, his first interview in 10 years, it's my responsibility to ask you specific questions. I'm glad you're taking them. My next question to you, and I have only two left. Mr. Gandhi, how much have you been affected by defeats and when we see, for example the visuals of Priyanka holding you after the U.P election loss. That picture, almost in a protective manner that Priyanka is holding you and you are walking away. You tell me what's happening in your mind out there. Do you feel overwhelmed by loss, by defeat, because you've had quite a few off late? How have you dealt with it?
Rahul: It all depends on what you're trying to do. I told you that I'm here because I want to help use the energy of this country. I want to make this country powerful. I want to project the ideas of this country. To do that, I think there are basically 3 things one needs to do. One, is changing the way we do politics here. Getting away from the superficialities, getting away from the small issues and moving deeper into the issues right. Questioning the system, changing the system. Things like RTI, things like Lokpal, things like how we choose our candidates. Things like bringing youngsters into politics. Second is empowering the women of this country. Really bringing them into the system. Really pushing them forward. And third is using the energy of the youth of this country. Bringing in the type of jobs that they need. This stuff is not done in 5 minutes. This stuff is frankly not done in this type of discussions. This stuff is done through concentrated thinking and long term work. It's frankly difficult work, it's painful work. If we're thinking about that and thinking that's what we want to do, defeat just makes you stronger, it makes you want to do more. I don't go into an election thinking, if we lose it's the end of the world. We lose some elections, we win some elections. The real thing is that it's a heart thing. It's a soul thing. Why are you here? I asked you that question, why am I sitting here? I'm sitting here because I feel with all my heart that we need to change the system here and not enough people are actually asking that question.
Arnab: Mr. Gandhi, my last question to you in the course of this interaction is this. Your father was forced into politics by circumstances. In your case as well, when you said power is poison and spoke about how your mother Sonia Gandhi came and she cried. If I put that together with some of what you've said, it might reinforce the image of a reluctant prince. It's not my phrase, I'm sure you've heard this phrase used against you or to describe you a number of times. Therefore Mr. Gandhi, the last question is this. Had you not been a Gandhi, would you have been in politics at all?
Rahul: If you look at my spirit, regardless of what I do, if I'd been born in India, regardless of what I do, I don't like unfairness. It just makes my blood boil. I don't like it. And in whatever I did, if I saw unfairness, I would stand up Against it. That's the heart of my politics.
Arnab: If you were not a Gandhi, would you be in politics? Some say this is a circumstance thrust on you Mr. Gandhi. You've been thrust into this situation. You're trying to justify to yourself that you need to do it. Heart of heart, are you a politician? Had you not been a Gandhi, would you be in politics?
Rahul: Maybe you find me strange because...
Arnab: No, I don't find you strange
Rahul: You sort of implied that, but maybe I look like an anomaly in the environment that I'm in. Maybe that's what you're saying and frankly in a lot of ways, I am an anomaly in the environment that I'm in. The power is poison remark, and I tell this to my sister, I tell it to my mother and my mother tells it to me. I don't get driven by the desire for power. I'm just not driven by it. For me power is an instrument that can be used for certain things. But for me, it's not interesting to own it, to capture it or to hold it. Maybe its because of my family circumstances and what happened to my family. Power per se, the quest for power, the thirst for power is not there is me. What is there in me, is a desire, a strong desire to reduce the pain that people feel. To reduce the pain that people feel as a result of the system that is predatory. As a result of the system that need not be there. As a result of system that can change if we just start to ask the deeper question. And we stop asking the superficial questions. Again, and maybe the seventh time I want to repeat it to you. What are those deeper questions? The deeper question is, why is power so concentrated in this country? Why is it that the Chief Minister of a state has the access to any decision in the entire state? Why is it that candidates are chosen in closed rooms? Why is it that people do not have access to the candidates' decision? Why is it that our policies are made behind closed doors by 5 or 6 people? Why is it that the perspective of one minister is completely different from the one who is following him? What that's telling me is that we're not exactly taking the voice of the people into policy. We're not actually taking the voice of the people into the political system. You said about the Aam Aadmi Party and you said, 'you criticised them and you praised them'. I liked what I saw as far as the representation, bringing in people, I thought that was an interesting concept. We've done that kind of stuff in the Youth Congress. That was interesting to me.
Arnab: Isn't bringing in people when you disregard the legal process and sit on a protest outside Rail Bhavan and then you also force your decision and your minister is always right. You avoided my question on the Aam Aadmi Party and I'm glad you've come to it. Tell me Mr. Rahul Gandhi, were you angry with Sushil Kumar Shinde giving a face-saver to Arvind Kejriwal? It was reported. I didn't mean to go back to it, you brought it back. The accusation is that you're still doing deals with the Aam Aadmi Party?
Rahul: What I liked about what I saw in the Aam Aadmi Party was people coming into their system. I liked that. But what's different between us & them is that we have structure. We develop processes. That I didn't see much of.
Arnab: Were you upset with Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde for giving them a way out during the recent Dharna? Do you fell they should've been offered a face-saver?
Rahul: You're going back Arnab
Arnab: Yes, to specifics
Rahul: It's not specifics. It's frankly superficialities
Arnab: How is it superficial?
Rahul: It's completely superficial
Arnab: This is the most relevant question
Rahul: No it's not. Whether Mr. Shinde should've apologised, whether he should've done this or done that is, it's a fact and it happened. But the real core issues in this election are, 1)Are we going to head towards a democracy, towards deepening our democracy and towards opening up the system or are we going to head towards concentration of power? 2) Are we going to head towards empowerment of women? Are we going to be a half strong nation? Be a half proud nation? Or are we going to actually empower women? Those are the questions. And you know, if you listen to the debate that's going on, about the elections, that's not the debate. There's nothing in the debate about how we're going to move forward on the RTI paradigm. How we're going to move forward on the corruption paradigm. There's nothing in the debate about funding of political parties. There's nothing in the debate about how we're going to choose political candidates. There's nothing in the debate about how policies must be made. These are the fundamental things. These are the things that actually make an impact.
Arnab: You're you're avoiding a debate. Will you have a debate with Narendra Modi if he agrees to a debate on any of these issues? My question is direct. If Narendra Modi says I'm willing to debate these issues...
Rahul: I'm debating these issues by building structures in the Congress party that's going to transform it.
Arnab: Why shouldn't there be a debate between the key political party candidates on all sides? Let them talk. Let them have a conversation
Rahul: You're more than welcome. You have to start that debate. As far as I'm concerned, the debate is taking place.
Arnab: I'm ready to start the debate. Are you ready for it? Then I can go and ask Mr. Narendra Modi if he's ready for it
Rahul: You start the debate. But the real issue is doing this stuff. The real issue is doing this stuff in the party machine. The only people who are doing that, is us. And frankly, we can stick for it. We've just said that 15 constituencies in this country in the Congress party are going to be chosen by primaries. No one said a word about it.
Arnab: Of course, it's mentioned everywhere. It hasn't impressed too many people.
Rahul: But the discussion hasn't gone there. So all I'm saying is, as youngsters and as serious politicians, one has to ask the fundamental questions. The fundamental question this election is, are we going to open up the system? Are we going to close the system? What is going to be the role of women going forward? How are we going to get jobs for youngsters in this country? You asked me a whole bunch of questions. You didn't ask me once on how we're going to get jobs for youngsters in this country. You didn't ask me once about what we're going to do for the women for this country. And I'm going to tell you what I think.
Arnab: But Mr. Rahul Gandhi, if I was to do that, I would listen to a Rahul Gandhi speech as I said. This is an interview. I'm getting an opportunity to ask you specific questions. You called my specific questions superficial. I, with respect disagree. I feel my questions are specific and you need to answer the specific questions as specifically as possible.
Rahul: You're more than welcome to ask these questions. But let's also move the debate to a place where we're actually reaching towards fundamentals. What should be the role of women in this country? How can we enhance their role? How do we bring jobs to millions of people. For example, every single person who comes to me from abroad, Japan, France, Germany, America and tell me 'Listen, we need an alternative to Chinese manufacture'. We're very happy with what the Chinese give us, but we need another port. There's global energy saying we want to move manufacturing to India. The Congress party, the UPA Govt have built the corridors, we've built the North-South, East-West corridor. We built 3 times the roads the NDA built. Why are we not having a discussion on those topics?
Arnab: I asked you that question during the course of the interview. Did UPA Govt let you down? Because Mr. Rahul Gandhi, when foreign investors want to invest in India, they want a clean investing environment. They don't want crony capitalism. They do not need scams. They do not need ministers who behave like Govts exist on their rent. They do not need the A Rajas and the Aircel Maxis scams. The climate Mr. Rahul Gandhi has become vitiated with corruption. And therefore, the answer to that is and I really want you to address this. If you had spoken out earlier, and lets bring this interview to a finality. If you had spoken out on these issues earlier, perhaps today we would not be in a situation where India is not the preferred investment destination. You get my point?
Rahul: Actually, the RTI right, has basically changed the game in India. What it has done, is that it has basically opened up the structures. And what used to be hidden, can no longer be hidden. That's the bottom line. The bottom line is large number of corruption issues that were hidden, that nobody would have found out about, came out because of the RTI. We did that. Now please go to our Opposition states, please go to their states and ask them if they have RTI Commissioners. The issue here is very simple. The issue is do you want an open system? Do you want a system where these things are out in the open? Or do you want a closed system where these things are hidden?
Arnab: I think we should have a debate Mr. Modi
Rahul: The debate is taking place right now
Arnab: The debate has to take place between individuals. My final question, Mr. Gandhi. Will you be open to a debate between key candidates or representatives of the major parties? Will you participate in such a debate if there were to be one?
Rahul: There is a national debate taking place right now. The national debate taking place right now is the following. There is the Congress Party that believes in openness, that believes in RTI, that believes in Panchayati Raj, that believes in giving people power. And there is our Opposition that believes in concentrated power. That's the debate that's taking place. That's what the election is all about. We fundamentally believe and the Congress Party has always believed that this country has to be ruled by its people.
Arnab: Can you take back this election or have you lost this election before its begun? Most of the surveys are saying Congress party will be reduced to its lowest ever tally. What would you say to that, Mr. Rahul Gandhi?
Rahul: This country has always been run & successfully when large numbers of people were involved in the decision making. Historically, when you look at when this country has done well, it has done well when we have involved people.
Arnab: You know what Modi says to that, he says you gave them 60 years. He says give me 60 months. He said that in U.P at Gorakhpur when he spoke recently. I want you to respond to that.
Rahul: My response to that is that in the last 10 years, we gave the country the fastest economic growth its ever had. My response is that, we did more for opening up the system than any Govt before us. My response is that we have completely changed the paradigm with our rights based development model. We have given MGNREGA which has transformed the rural economy. We are talking about AADHAR which is going to give money directly to the people. To just brush aside the idea that Congress party has been in power for 60 years, we are growing at the rate at which we are growing because of the Congress party.
Arnab: Are you battle ready?
Rahul: Battle ready, of course. We're going to win.
Arnab: Mr. Rahul Gandhi, thank you very much. It's been a pleasure talking to you.