Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in an interview to a leading daily, has stated that he is "ready to take charge".
"I am a sepoy of the Congress. I will obey whatever order is given to me. I will do whatever the Congress wants me to do. The decisions are taken in our party by senior leaders," he told Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar in an interview.
"Earlier, certain decisions were taken. Power is poison, but that does not mean that I am not keen to take responsibility. There is no reluctance in my life. Whatever task the Congress wanted me to accomplish, I have done that," Gandhi said when asked whether he was ready to take up the PM’s post.
Gandhi's remarks at the party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur in January last year -- that his mother Sonia Gandhi had told him that power is poison -- had led to speculations that the Congress vice president was not willing to take up greater responsibility.
Explaining his remarks, he said, "Power is poison is an observation that when power comes, one should know how to deal with the associated dangers that come with it. This is it. It means use power for the welfare of people and do not use it to make oneself bigger or more powerful".
To a direct question on whether he will accept any such responsibility, Gandhi said, "None of my family members ever worked for the sake of power. Neither my father nor my grandmother."
Gandhi's father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi were both prime ministers of the country.
"We are a democratic organisation. We have faith in democracy. The people of India will decide through their elected representatives who will be the prime minister of the country. It is necessary for the Congress to come to power in the interest of the nation and for that whatever responsibility the organisation has given me or will give me, I will carry out that with full dedication," he said.
Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party for its "Congress-free India" pitch, he said, "The BJP today wants a personality-oriented rule, which is not in the interests of the country. The country should not be governed according to the thinking of a particular person and his ways. The future of 120 crore people can be shaped up and improved only by taking everybody along."
Maintaining that the "Congress is in the DNA of this country," Gandhi said, "The BJP is talking of a Congress-free India. It does not understand that Congress alone is the political power which has kept the people of this country united."
Gandhi also sought to make it clear that his sister and friend Priyanka Gandhi will not play any electoral role and that she, as an active member of Congress, is helping him.
"Priyanka is my sister and friend. She is an active member of the Congress and she is lending a helping hand to strengthen me and the organisation. I do not think she will have any electoral role," he said.
Maintaining that the Congress is always assessed poorly, Gandhi said, "The upcoming elections are exciting and I have full confidence that we will do well in the polls."
While answering questions about his future role in the party, Gandhi also expressed dismay at the media’s focus on one personality in the political process.
"My question is that why do all arguments come to a halt on one post? Why is this debated at the national level? Why is a particular person or post discussed? Why can nobody talk about reform in politics? Why is nobody ready to change the system? The talk should centre around how we change the political system," he said.
Gandhi, who had earlier said that his party would "learn" from the Aam Admi Party, also talked about his "differences" with Arvind Kerjiwal's party on some issues.
"The Congress is a strong and active party. It has changed the shape of politics in the country earlier and it will do so in the future as well. We have been raising these issues since I came into politics. Some of these things have been implemented by the AAP. But our ways are different. I am not in agreement with many of their ways.
"Our decisions should be keeping in mind the secure future of people rather than their short term gains," the Congress vice president said.
At the same time, Gandhi said that he never claimed that everything was fine in the Congress.
"There are certain things which need to be rectified. I have placed all these things before the party," he said.
Though he rejected a contention that Congress leaders have lost touch with the grassroots and its legislators do not go to the field any more, he nevertheless agreed, "There is a need to connect the party with the youth. We have worked in this regard. We will do it in the future as well."
Gandhi also disagreed with a contention that several allies are leaving the Congress.
"It's not that allies are leaving us. We have allies in Jammu and Kashmir and in Maharashtra. There is no alliance in Bihar but talks are going on," he said, but declined to answer when asked whether the Congress will ally with Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal.
"Talks are continuing. These decisions are taken by the alliance committee (headed by A K Antony) and their decisions will be acceptable to me," he merely said when asked about the tie-up with the RJD.
During the interview, the Congress vice president also quoted Mahatma Gandhi.
"As far as power is concerned, I want to remind you of the words of Mahatma Gandhi. He had said that think about the last man whenever you think about power. We forget the last man the moment we get power that," Gandhi said.
He also highlighted the recent initiative of the Congress to open up its manifesto making exercise for the people ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls.
"The Congress wants to take democracy to the grassroots. We are bringing common people in the party in the organisation, we have opened up our manifesto exercise. I want even the common man to say that I want this thing in the manifesto," Gandhi said, listing initiatives like the Right to Education, Right to Food, Right to Information, Right to Forest and other such legislations brought by the government.
Gandhi said the United Progressive Alliance will go down in the history as a government that took many landmark decisions like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and other land reforms.
"We have made a huge framework for manufacturing so that people can get employment, we want to change the country in a way that it benefits all sections," he said.
He said that along with education, health and employment, it is also necessary to increase the growth rate, something that the party will explain it in the manifesto.
"A major strength of India is its education system but this will have to be opened up. The system does not look like one which can fulfill the needs of 125 crore people,” said Gandhi.
"In last ten years, the biggest effort of the Congress has been to ensure that the maximum number of children go to schools and they receive education. For this, our next major step will be how do we empower our teachers and strengthen them," he said.