Rahul Gandhi speaks during AICC meeting in Jaipur

Soft Rahul turns hard; ready for 2014 battle he calls upon Congress soldiers to fight to win

Congress believes in democracy not diktat of one man

Agency Report | New Delhi | 17 January, 2014 | 09:30 AM

It was like a new Rahul Gandhi in tone, tenor and content. Known for his dimpled smile and ‘rational’ speechmaking, the Gandhi scion almost adorned a new avatar when he decided to prepare his Congress soldiers for the tough battle ahead.

Putting finally at rest the speculation and party clamour that he should be the Congress prime ministerial candidate for the general election, party vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday said “in a democracy MPs choose the prime minister” as was outlined in the nation’s Constitution.

“If you read India’s constitution, it is written there that the prime minister is chosen by Members of Parliament. We are a democratic party and take democratic decisions,” he said at the Congress party plenary, the All India Congress Committee, meeting at the packed Talkatora Stadium here.

“We will fight the elections and win but the prime minister will be elected by the party’s MPs as per our Constitution,” an aggressive Rahul Gandhi told party workers in a speech that was repeatedly cheered by the party cadre.

His mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had in the morning ruled out the party naming a prime ministerial candidate despite demands by the rank and file that Rahul Gandhi be named just like the BJP has anointed Narendra Modi their PM candidate.

The Congress had on Thursday announced that Rahul Gandhi would lead the party in the Lok Sabha election this year but won’t be the prime ministerial candidate.

Speaking later, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, “There is little doubt that if the Congress comes to power, Rahul Gandhi is our man,” meaning Rahul Gandhi will be the prime minister if the party wins the Lok Sabha battle expected in April-May.

Attacking Modi — without naming him – Rahul Gandhi said his party did not believe in the “structure of democracy to be handed over to one man”. He said the Indian constitution clearly stated that MPs of the victorious party would choose their prime minister after the general election.

A charged Congress vice president, who analysts said had rarely spoken with so much passion and combativeness before, further said that “change” was taking place in the country and the Congress needed to meet the aspirations of the common man, who want a “fair deal”.

“This is not just another election to be fought. This is a turning point for India and no one is willing to compromise,” he declared.

Cheered on by the enthusiastic crowd of Congress leaders and workers, Rahul Gandhi asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seated a few feet away, to increase the annual cap on subsidized cooking gas cylinders from nine to 12 per household.

“There is another thing which the entire country, especially women are concerned, that is nine (gas) cylinders aren’t enough, we need 12 cylinders,” he said as workers especially women chanted his name.

He also called upon the people to support the party in passing six anti-corruption bills in Parliament within the next three months, saying the opposition will do its best to stop the passage of these bills.

“We want to give the country anti-graft bills which will transform the country, punish the corrupt and protect the honest,” Gandhi said. “Step up and fight for them.”

“We need to give more representation to women in politics. I want the Women Reservation Bill to be passed in Parliament. I want half the Congress members to be women.”

In a scathing attack on the main opposition, the Congress vice president accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of dividing people on communal lines and stalling parliament. “We do not respond by subverting democratic institutions and blocking parliamentary sessions year after year.”

He accused the BJP of “turning people against each other” and “lighting the fire of communal hatred”. Gandhi ended his 42-minute address saying there was a “tough battle ahead” for the party and “we’ll go into battle as warriors” and “will not stop till the battle is won”. (IANS)