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Dr Singh and I have an excellent working rapport: Sonia
October 12, 2007 22:33 IST
Q: Is there any tension between you and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?
A: Those who have doubts about the prime minister and I working together obviously do not know either the prime minister or me. Both of us have worked closely together for a long time and we have an excellent working rapport. If he feels he has to bring something to my notice, he does it in all frankness and the same applies to me too.
Q: Have you ever thought of any leader other than Manmohan Singh as the prime minister?
A: There was never a doubt. No, never, absolutely not.
Q: Have you ever considered having a deputy prime minister?
A: That was never considered.
Q: What is the role of the Congress president in the coalition?
A: As the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, I interact with leaders of the coalition parties and the Left Front. I head meetings of concerned coordination committees. My involvement in government policies is not much because the manifesto and the Common Minimum Programme are followed by the government. At times, when my views are not quite matching with that of the government, I discuss it with the prime minister.
Q: How will you grade the government's performance after the completion of three and a half years in power?
A: I am absolutely satisfied with the working of the UPA government. I applaud the prime minister for the manner in which he has run the government and the coalition. The government has done a great deal of work, but one is never satisfied. More could be done but we are working in a coalition.
Q: Are you embarrassed about the government's economic success?
A: I am not embarrassed. In fact, we are proud of it. But we cannot brag about our economic growth. We cannot forget that there are still areas where people live in extreme poverty.
Q: Are you scared by the India Shining campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party?
A: It was a surreal campaign. It did not exist. It existed only for a small group of people and it did not make a difference to the rest of the country.
Q: Indian economy is growing but people say it is not because of politicians.
A: I think there is a great deal of cynicism in certain sections of society about politicians. I think it is a bit unfair. There are also very serious and committed politicians. Manmohan Singh is one. There are many such politicians across party lines.
Q: Didn't you ask your husband Rajiv Gandhi to stay clear of politics?
A: My mother-in-law Indira Gandhi [Images] was the prime minister of India for 16 years; we have seen the worst of politics. There were attempts on her life. Finally, she was killed. My experience with politics was not a happy one. I felt I would lose him.
Q: Didn't you have a disdain about politics when you entered the field?
A: I did have some reservations because I had seen the worst of politics. My husband was assassinated. It was a trauma. But certain forces were gaining ground, my mother-in-law lived and died fighting against it. I could no longer just sit and watch these things happen.
Q: Do you now think in retrospect that it was not that bad?
A: It has not been as bad as I had thought. You make a difference for the better.
Q: What do you think are the areas where work has not been done?
A: We have not been able to persuade all of them (coalition partners) about 33 per cent reservation for women. But I have not lost hope.
Q: Do you have close advisors like R K Dhawan or Brajesh Mishra?
A: I do consult my colleagues, members of the Congress Working Committee and some senior and younger colleagues. It depends upon situations and issues. There is no single individual like that.
Q: Was the controversy about the candidature of Pratibha Patil [Images] in the Presidential polls surprising?
A: Not at all. The Opposition was going all out to block us. I was not going to give it up, come what may. The prime minister was always on board with me on this.
Q: Why did you attack those opposing the India-United States nuclear agreement at a rally in Haryana?
A: Everyone will want me to say that it was an attack on the Left. But it was not. I was in Haryana and talking about the Opposition to our government there. Even in the last sentence, I meant the opposition in Haryana.
We are working in a coalition. If I want to talk about something on which I don't agree with them, the last thing I will do is to go out and shout and scream and say I don't approve of it. I don't agree. I will call that person and tell him directly that I don't agree with you.
Q: Are elections on the horizon?
A: No, we are not in favour of early elections. As the prime minister has said, the deadline is 2009. We are going to do all that we can to see that we implement our programmes till 2009.
Q: Your take on the issues of fundamentalism and communalism?