Clean chit to Modi for 2002 riots far too premature: Rahul Gandhi


March 17, 2014

DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has taken on BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying any clean chit was "politically expedient and far too premature" and insisted the Gujarat chief minister was legally and morally accountable for failing to control the violence.

March 17, 2014

DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has taken on BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying any clean chit was "politically expedient and far too premature" and insisted the Gujarat chief minister was legally and morally accountable for failing to control the violence.

Rahul Gandhi said clean chit given to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in 2002 riots case was "politically expedient and far too premature".

In a wide ranging interview to PTI, Rahul also disagreed with finance minister P Chidambaram's comment that Congress was the underdog and faced an uphill task in the 2014 polls and expressed confidence that a UPA-3 will assume office after the Lok Sabha elections.

Rahul dismissed opinion polls as a joke and asserted that "Congress is facing a challenging election and we will win the election" in a concerted bid to prop up drooping morale in the party ranks following reports that leaders and sitting MPs were keen to avoid contesting elections or were seeking safe constituencies.

Significantly, the Congress vice-president stressed that he shared Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's apology and party president Sonia Gandhi's regrets over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, in what seems an effort at damage control over his previous admission that "some Congressmen were probably involved" in the retaliatory violence after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Rahul's previous comment that he was "not operational" in the Congress when the riots took place had sparked protests by Sikh groups and political opponents who demanded that he identify those involved in the violence and expressed dissatisfaction over the suggestion that he was too young at the time.

The Congress leader also countered the suggestion that his claims to be an outsider did not square up with his being part of the system, saying what was important was "not where I come from but what I work for. Does being an insider — as you define me — take away from me the right to disagree or fight for a change?"

After having said he was ready to draw lessons from the Aam Aadmi Party in the wake of Congress's losses in last year's assembly polls, Rahul said the political outfit was not a factor in a national election. He accused AAP of abdicating its responsibilities when given a chance of govern in Delhi.

"They did not solve any of the problems they said they would solve. Frankly, they ran away," Rahul said, pointing out that AAP had enjoyed Congress's support to run a government in Delhi.

On Modi, the Congress leader seemed willing to take his main rival head on after having avoided direct attacks in the past. He now seems inclined to continue attacking Modi in keeping with his sharply critical comments at a rally in Gujarat recently where he compared the Gujarat CM with Adolf Hitler.

Responding to a question on BJP's contention that Modi had been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT and the courts, he said"As you know, the SIT report has been seriously questioned by a number of credible experts. Grave flaws have been pointed out in the functioning of the SIT. The acceptance of the flawed SIT report by the lowest court has not yet been subjected to judicial scrutiny by higher courts."

He added, "The specific allegation and evidence pointing to Mr Modi's responsibility in the 2002 riots are yet to be adequately probed. Any talk of his having been given a clean chit may be politically expedient, but is far too premature. There are many unanswered questions. There is a lot more the country needs to know."

Rahul, however, did not see Lok Sabha elections as virtually a presidential-style contest between him and Modi and said, "It is a clash between two ideas of India," playing on a theme articulated by Modi at the BJP national council in Delhi earlier this year.

The Congress leader said the BJP seeks to "suppress large numbers of India's ideas" and wanted "an India in which power is centralized in the hands of individuals". He added, "The ideas that Mr Modi represents are dangerous for India."

To whether people appeared disappointed with the lacklustre performance of the UPA government and favoured a strong leader like Modi, he said, "Yes, I believe that India needs a 'strong' leader but we must have a deeper understanding of what 'strength' means.

"Strength to me, is not brute force or the ability to bulldoze your way through decision-making in an autocratic manner … I do believe that an autocratic mindset that believes in dispensing with whatever is inconvenient to its notions is dangerous because such people tend to disregard what is right for what is expedient."

Asked about Modi's campaign and his language such as him being called a "shezada" (prince), Rahul said as far as the language used by political leaders was concerned, "it is for the people of the country to judge a politician's language and choice of words".

He also questioned BJP's credentials on combating corruption, saying "Their (BJP's) national president was seen taking money and was convicted. The record of the Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh governments on corruption is well known. The money and land scams in Karnataka, absence of a functional Lokayukta in Gujarat for over 10 years, the recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh, and the allotment of land to industry in a completely non-transparent manner — the record is there for all to see."

He debunked opinion polls, which he had described as a joke, and said the party would do better than the 2009 elections when it had won 206 seats. Predictions before 2004 and 2009 elections also were that the Congress was going to lose and get thrashed, he recalled.

Answering a question on the failure of the government and the party to communicate with the people, he admitted, "I think certainly we could have been more aggressive in conveying our achievements. As I said, we have done transformatory work. We could always be better in communication."

Rubbishing the perception that Congress was losing allies, the party vice-president said it had alliances with NCP, RJD, JMM, RLD and the National Conference but had lost DMK and Trinamool Congress.

On the decisions taken by the UPA government, Rahul admitted that he had differed with the government on a number of issues but "I have been overruled". Asked to cite examples, he said that "one very large public place where I was overruled" was on the question of making Lokpal a constitutional body. "I had a different view from the senior members of the party and I was overruled."

Another instance cited by him pertained to the ordinance to nullify a Supreme Court order disqualifying convicted lawmakers in which he had a view different from senior members of the party but was initially overruled.

"Then I took the step of making my views public," he said in an obvious reference to a press conference at which he had declared that the ordinance should be torn and thrown away. He was articulating the public opinion and the party had listened to that.

Asked why he had hesitated in apologizing for the anti-Sikh riots during an earlier interview, Rahul said, "The prime minister of the UPA has apologized and the president of the Congress party (has) expressed regrets. I share their sentiments completely."

Courtesy: PTI