New Delhi, March 26: Rahul Gandhi today predicted that the “myth” that a Narendra Modi wave is sweeping the country will explode just like the India Shining balloon burst, and the 2014 election will throw up a surprise.
Sonia Gandhi shared Rahul’s optimism as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contended that the Congress’s inclusive politics alone, not the Gujarat model, could provide a lasting solution to India’s problems.
All the three leaders defended the UPA’s record and hoped the ruling combine would return for a third term.
At a question-answer session after releasing the party’s manifesto, Rahul said: “Here in 2009, this question was raised that the Congress would be thrashed. The opinion polls gave five seats to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. It didn’t happen. (The Congress had won 22 seats.) The result will surprise you. I know UP and the result this time will be better than 2009.”
The emphasis on Uttar Pradesh reflects the heartburn created by opinion polls that forecast 40-50 seats in the state for the BJP because of “the Modi wave”.
The Congress knows that if the BJP fails to pull off the miracle in Uttar Pradesh, the challenger cannot be in a position to sew up majority. The surveys have forecast less than 10 seats for the Congress in 2014. Without a specific question being asked on Uttar Pradesh, Rahul addressed the core concern on his own.
“The BJP has the ability to carry out campaigns. Just like the India Shining balloon exploded... I can say certainly the balloon will explode, 100 per cent,” he said. “India Shining was a brilliant campaign. Everybody was convinced. But on the day of voting, it evaporated.”
Rahul avoided making any personal attack on Modi but rejected his brand of politics by criticising the divisive ideology. “This kind of divisive politics will hurt India. Every Congressman will fight and defeat that,” he said.
Asked if he agreed with the assessment of Manmohan that Modi as Prime Minister would be disastrous for the nation, Rahul said: “The Prime Minister is a wise man and, on most of the issues, I bow to him. I tend to agree with his wisdom. But it was not a question of individual whom you may like or dislike. But the ideology which is questioning the idea of India — the real danger is that ideology.”
This was Rahul’s matured way of endorsing the Prime Minister’s blunt remark without actually making a personal reference to Modi.
While Modi never misses an opportunity to heap scorn on the “shehzada”, Rahul has launched blistering attacks on the RSS ideology, linking it to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and Hitler but avoiding directly targeting Modi.
The manifesto, too, deals with the ideological question in a big way, giving it a much greater thrust than development issues and welfare schemes.
“The BJP’s narrow and communal perspective denies equality to all. Theirs is an exclusionary doctrine. Peace cannot be constructed on conflict. Societies cannot be built on injustice and hatredů. This is an ideology that seeks to impose uniformity in the name of unity,” the manifesto said.
Responding to questions about the predictions of doom for the Congress, Sonia too recalled the 2004 and 2009 elections to buttress her contention that opinion polls have been proved wrong time and again.
“We are ready to fight and we will win,” she thundered while describing the Manmohan era as a period of robust growth, social empowerment and revolutionary legislation.
To a question about his government being the most corrupt, the Prime Minister said: “The BJP attacked me as they felt I was a weak Prime Minister and, under constant criticism, I will run away from the job entrusted to me by the Congress. I proved them wrong. There is no reason to believe there is substance in what the BJP set out to argue.
“Corruption is an issue and can’t be wished away. Efforts have to be made to fight corruption and the government did a lot to strengthen the institutional framework.”
Sonia said tens of thousands of suggestions had come in the course of consultations for the manifesto and a separate document enlisting them would be brought out in the next few days as everything could not be accommodated in it.
Rahul and other senior leaders were engaged in a unique five-month manifesto-making exercise, which involved deliberations with over 10,000 people from different social groups held at 27 locations.
‘A big joke’
The BJP dubbed the Congress election manifesto a “joke” and a “document of deceit” and claimed it amounted to a “rank insult” to Indians.
Chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “They are promising an eight per cent growth rate over the present rate of 4.6 per cent. This is a big joke.”