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The Rediff Election Special /
'This is the result of my mother's hard work'
May 13, 2004
Rahul Gandhi has made an impressive debut. He polled 66.18 percent of the vote in the Amethi parliamentary constituency.
It was a 12-cornered contest, but the minute Gandhi threw his hat into the fray, it was clear who the winner would be.
Gandhi won the seat by 290,853 votes.
Surrounded by the media, a charming Gandhi credited his success to his mother's hard work and the strength of the Congress party.
He also said that those in the know in the Congress are not surprised by the people's mandate, particularly in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. "It was clear to us that we were going to win," he said.
Excerpts from his chat with the media:
You must be pleased. What are your plans now?
The real work starts now. Contesting the elections was just the beginning.
The Congress has put in an impressive performance. Who deserves the credit?
This verdict is the result of my mother's hard work. It is also a testimony to the strength of the Congress.
Is the Congress surprised?
This verdict has not come as a surprise to those in the know. The results in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were not surprising. It was clear to us that we were going to win.
What is your reaction to the BJP's attacks on your mother?
My family has seen such personal attacks for the last 50 years. My great grandfather was attacked. My grandmother was attacked. My father was attacked. My mother was attacked. We are not interested in these kind of things. We are interested in the country.
Has the BJP has suffered a setback because they made Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin an electoral plank?
The voter in India is sensitive and intelligent. He understands that those who launch a personal attack on their opponents are hiding the fact that they have nothing to offer the country. The people have replied and have given a fitting answer. They have made it clear they are not interested in these kind of things.
I want to make one thing clear at this stage. I wish Mr Vajpayee all the best from the bottom of my heart. I am not saying this just for the sake of saying it. I really mean it.
Mr Vajpayee has said you are a child in politics.
I respect Mr Vajpayee. I accept that I am a child in politics and I promise I will grow up and become a man.
What are your plans for Amethi?
The first thing I want to do is meet the people of Amethi. I want to understand their problems. I want to establish the foundation of a relationship that I hope will be a long term one. I want our relationship to be mutually helpful.
Young politicians begin their career with great enthusiasm. Will you be able to retain this freshness?
I hope to retain this freshness. Four members of my family have managed to retain this freshness. They have rendered a lot of service to the country.
What is your opinion of the BJP?
The BJP talks of Italian origins. The BJP talks of Bofors. The BJP talks of children who are stepping into politics. The BJP talks a lot. Instead, they should talk about prosperity. They should talk about what they can give the country. They should not talk of breaking parties. They should talk about building the country. It is only then that they will become an effective political party.
Will the Congress be able to deliver what the people need?
The Congress has a history that goes back over a century. It has faced many new situations. The freedom movement was new for us. Independence was new to us. Forming a government for the first time was new to us. The Green Revolution was new to us. The IT movement was new to us. We delivered on all these fronts. We will deliver yet again.
What are your mother's strengths?
I have seen my mother fight. She has faced situations even when her back was to the wall. She has fought against all odds. She faced a harrowing time when my grandmother was assassinated. She faced a traumatic time when my father was assassinated. But she has never given up. People are attacking her personally and she is facing that bravely. She is my hero.
What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you heard you had won?
That the press was going to harass me (laughs). That you guys were going to interview me and were not going to let me go for at least half an hour (laughs).
Actually, I first thought of my sister [Priyanka Gandhi]. I had promised her that if I won, she would be the first person to give me a laddoo [sweet]. In the excitement of the victory, I was worried about how I was going to ensure that.
What will your role in the Congress be?
I am just a junior functionary in the party. My role will be decided by the Congress.
Will you be a Cabinet minister in the new government?
My point is, I am a junior functionary in the party. It is for the Congress to decide what my role will be. I will obey whatever they say. The country has given the mandate to the Congress and to Sonia Gandhi.
Will you become prime minister?
(very irritated) That's ridiculous. Are you asking me a serious question?
It's ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. (shakes his head) Ridiculous.
Will you become prime minister down the line?
I am not an astrologer. I cannot predict. I don't know what will happen in the future. For now, I plan to work for the people of Amethi. I want to understand the issues that concern the poor people.
You have said that you will obey what your party says. What if they ask you to become prime minister?
Nahi banooga. This is one time when I will not obey the party.
How do you and your sister help your mother?
My sister and I do advise my mother where we can. We do help where we can.
How do you plan to celebrate your victory?
There are no loud celebrations in our family. We might have a quiet celebration.
What about a holiday?
I don't know.
You won't take a break?
You guys need a break more. You guys need a break from me.