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Rahul trashes 100 seats ‘joke’, eyes double

Rahul in Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi, March 15: Rahul Gandhi feels the projection by opinion polls that the Congress would get around 100 seats in the next general election is a joke.

A joke is usually intended to invoke laughter but Rahul told party workers during an hour-long video chat on Google Hangout today that this one about the 100 seats was meant to demoralise them.

Recalling how opinion poll predictions about the Congress getting thrashed in the 2004 and 2009 general election were proved wrong, he hoped the party would again get 200-plus seats.

This bold assertion was required to lift the party workers’ morale in the midst of the gloomy scenario that was further darkened by several Congress leaders conceding in private that 2014 did not belong to them.

Although most Congress leaders dismiss the opinion poll predictions as grossly hyped and motivated by extraneous factors, they agree the mood is hostile to the Congress in large parts of the country and the losses could be significant.

But Rahul asked the party workers not to get demoralised by the “bogus” opinion polls as there was no question of the BJP coming to power. He warned them about the forces out to demoralise them as they do not want secularism and people’s empowerment.

“Those who said we would be thrashed in 2004 and 2009 are trying to create doubts in the Congress workers' minds by claiming the Congress will not get even 100 seats. We are going to win the election again… no question of BJP coming to power... we are going to get majority to form the government.”

Asserting that this “100 seats is a joke”, Rahul said: “If you are not demoralised, we will smash (them) up... if you have no doubts in mind, we are getting 200 plus.... Don’t assume that opinion polls are the law. We have done tremendous work be it RTI or other rights. If you put this message across that we are changing the way politics is run in India, pushing for transparency to banish corruption, we will win the battle.”

He asked party workers to be aggressive, particularly the youngsters, and to canvass that the Congress is an “idea”, an idea against hatred, against anger and out to fight them with “respect to all and love”.

He said: “All our schemes are based on the idea of love. Let it be explained that it is the idea in which all can live together in peace. The minimum rights we have given symbolise that love — minimum right to work, i.e. NREGA, minimum right to food, i.e. Right to Food, minimum right to information, i.e. RTI, and minimum right to education, i.e. Right to Education.”

In 2004, when the Vajpayee government was at its peak and the BJP coined “India Shining”, pre-poll surveys gave the ruling NDA between 270 and 340 seats while the Congress-led coalition was supposed to be restricted below 180. The Congress went on to dislodge the BJP government, putting a big question mark over both opinion and exit polls.

In 2009, while most opinion polls suggested the Congress and the BJP would run neck-and-neck with around 140 seats, there was a difference of almost 100 seats between the two.

During the Google Hangout interaction, Rahul said the Opposition was scared that they lost last time because of MNREGA and debt waiver to farmers, and now they would lose because of the right to food.

“They are scared of our programmes... that is why the BJP did not allow Parliament to work as it was scared of the programmes we were bringing.”

When a Congress worker from Punjab complained about wrong selection of candidates in the last election, Rahul said that happened when tickets were given without involving party workers. That was why he introduced primaries for selection of 16 candidates as what was needed was s change in the system for selection of candidates.

Without naming Narendra Modi, Rahul said in reply to another question that unlike a single person taking all decisions in the rival party, the Congress is not only an organisation but an idea re-invented all the time.

“We re-invented under Gandhiji and we have done it again and again that brought green revolution, IT revolution and so on.... Now our central theme is how to build the voice of the common man into the political governance of our party and how to place voice of the weakest worker in the party’s decisions.”