'Whole world knows Rahul will be named PM if the Cong is in a position'
In the backdrop of a furor created by the prime minister's former media advisor Sanjaya Baru's book, Finance Minister P Chidambaram in an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN, said that Dr Manmohan Singh is reticent, withdrawn and shy by nature.
Accepting that the UPA II failed in getting across the message to the general public, Chidambaram, however, did not comment on the much criticised silence by the PM on many burning issues.
Having faced much criticism for his role as the finance minister, Chidambaram defended the steps taken by the Congress-led government. He in fact alleged that the economy was in a worse shape during the National Democratic Alliance rule.
On ‘running away’ from contesting the elections
Running away is an absurd charge. I am one of the four or five people of India who have contested elections from the same constituency for over 30 years, 8 elections or more. I had decided long ago that I will not contest the LS elections and I had publicly said that we must make way for the younger generation. Given my age, I am perfectly entitled to say that I should not contest an election. It’s my choice.
On the senior party leaders not wanting to contest elections -- the perception of the Opposition being that the Congress is scared
Why is Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha not contesting elections? Why is Ravi Shankar Prasad not contesting elections? Why don’t you ask them this question? I can’t speak for everyone.
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Image: Finance Minister P Chidambaram
'Rahul has become he has become quite sharp and incisive'
On dynastic politics
How many sons and daughters of BJP leaders and of others leaders are contesting? I can name half a dozen. Karti (Chidambaram’s son) did not offer himself as a candidate. I had said please select any candidate, and I had even suggested some names. Though given the circumstances, he had a better chance among all the candidates. I had offered to campaign for any candidate of the party's choice. In fact, I am campaigning for most of the young candidates fielded in Tamil Nadu.
On the Congress and the PM to not have spoken enough
I have already said so as the finance and home minister I think I have spoken enough. As for the PM, that is for him to answer. He is by nature, reticent, withdrawn and shy. I wish he had spoken more, but I concede that he is by nature shy and withdrawn.
On the PM's former media advisor Sanjay Baru calling the govt a remote controlled kind of govt
I don’t agree. I have taken a number of decisions only after consulting the prime minister. I have taken a number of decisions after discussion with the core group. Some decisions can be taken within the govt, while some decisions have to be taken in consultation with the party.
Therefore, every decision has to be taken after whoever has to be consulted. Never in the last 10 years has the PM told me I have to go back and ask someone before the decision is to be taken.
On Congress not naming Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate
He is the vice president of the Congress; he is the potential candidate for PM if the Congress is in a position to form a govt. I am happy he is leading the campaign, and in the last couple of weeks I think he has become quite sharp and incisive.
That is my view, but there are other views of the party. Ultimately, the view that prevailed was that the Congress would not formally announce the PM candidate; but the whole world knows he will be named prime minister if the Congress is in a position to form the government.
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Image: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi
'Modi's brand of economics is based on crony capitalism'
On the contradictions within the Congress responsible for bad economy
The worst phase of economy was when Yashwant Sinha was the finance minister. In 2000-2001, the GDP growth rate was 4.3 per cent. In 2001-02, it fell further to 4 per cent a historic low. In July 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was forced to move Yashwant Sinha out of the North Block and bring in Jaswant singh. He did bit of a salvage operation; the statistical impact helped him the next year -- he could show higher growth. In the 2004 elections, the BJP claimed India was shining -- people did not buy that story and rejected their argument -- the economy was on a pretty low point in 2004.
However, we took some bold decisions -- we liberalised the economy more and we achieved 8.5 per cent growth in the first five years -- that is when the international crisis hit. Every country is going thru a crisis. This period of six years has been described as the great recession.
We responded in the manner which every country responded -- through monetary stimulus by monetary expansion. I have substantially corrected the fiscal deficit; I have contained the current account deficit beyond anyone's expectations. In the last two years, we have brought back the economy to the growth path.
The fact that the entire business sector and corporate sector lobby actually backing Narendra Modi…
The most fickle constituency in this country is business. Even as late as last month, business leaders who met me were thanking us profusely for putting the economy back on the trail, thanking us profusely for not allowing any bank to collapse, for not allowing credit to freeze where the whole world is going through difficulty.
Business leaders tend to be very fickle and I don't blame them. They have to live with any government that comes to office. So, I don't want to say more about business leaders, but our constituency is not confined to business leaders. Our constituencies are farmers, farm workers, young people aspiring for jobs, women, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. ”
On Rahul recently saying at a rally that the Ambanis have been taken over by the Adanis, and this is first time Rahul is talking about Modi’s economics…
I agree with Rahul when he says that Modi’s brand of economics is based on crony capitalism. I said this. He has cronies in Gujarat. It is an open secret. He has now some cronies in Mumbai. All this will come out by and by; his brand of liberalisation is crony capitalism. I stand by that charge and I endorse what Rahul said in that respect.
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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
'It is up to an individual to decide how they invest in politics'
On whether the Congress can come back to power
Wait until the counting is over. What did your media say in 2004 and 2009? I have got a printout of polls you did. I am not saying polls are right or wrong. I am only saying that every party goes in an election with the hope that it will win. Every party executes confidence to win an election. Even Independent candidates contest elections saying they will win. We may win, we hope to win, we want to win and if people decide, we will win.
On the DMK-Cong Alliance
There is no doubt in my mind that if the DMK-UPA alliance had held together in Tamil Nadu, we would have swept the polls. That is the arithmetic of elections that Karunanidhi and my party know. The reason which we have not been able to understand is why Karunanidhi broke the alliance. These are senior leaders, they are entitled to take the decisions they have taken, but I think in a sense they lost an opportunity to sweep the elections.
On the youth
I have a constituency in which there are nearly 3 lakh new voters. They are in ages in between 18 and 22. They have all got to vote for the first time. Now a section I am sure is impressed by what they see in the media about Modi. I am sure another section is looking at what we have done in terms of growth.
On Priyanka Gandhi's role to coming to active politics
That is not for me to say. I am not one of those who express opinions on everything. This for the person to decide, given that fact she is a mother of two, given the fact she has other interests in life. It is up to an individual to decide how they invest in politics.
Image: Priyanka Gandhi meets supporters in Rae Bareli
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters