Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has expressed his interest in becoming India’s prime minister if his party or a coalition led by it wins next year’s crucial general elections.
“That depends on how the Congress performs … if it emerges as the biggest party – yes,” Rahul said, replying to a question on whether he would become the prime minister.
When asked what in case it’s an alliance, he said: “…if the Congress is the biggest party, then yes.”
The Congress chief was speaking in the southern Indian state Karnataka. He has been vigorously campaigning in the state which goes to polls on May 12.
Rahul said he was “pretty convinced that Modi is not going to be the prime minister” after the 2019 elections. “I can see it in his face. He knows it,” he said.
Rahul had first expressed his interest to become prime minister last year when he had a frank conversation with the University of California, Berkeley, students.
Once the most ridiculed political leader in India, the 47-year-old scion of the Gandhi dynasty – is fast becoming a force to contend with in Indian politics.
Rahul was elevated to the top post of India’s grand old Congress Party in December, taking the mantle from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who had been its president since 1998. Sonia kept the seat warm for her son for 19 years, and in the bargain remained Congress President for the longest period in the party’s 132-year-old history.
Rahul was made vice-president of the party in 2013, a year before the general elections which saw the Congress registering its worst defeat ever and signalling the return of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a decade.
The Congress lost one citadel after another post-2014, with Rahul becoming the butt of jokes in drawing conversations and on social media. Political pundits wrote him off as a lightweight, reluctant politician who didn’t stand a chance in Indian politics.
However, Rahul’s political fortunes are finally beginning to look up. He is being seen as the man who can take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul’s aggressive campaigning in the western state of Gujarat that went to polls in December last worked wonders for his sagging image. There was no sweeping win for the BJP, as predicted by the exit polls, or 150 seats, as bragged by its party president Amit Shah.
The reduced margin took a little sheen off BJP’s sixth straight win in Gujarat, and lent the much-needed halo to Rahul’s head. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat three times before he was elected as Prime Minister in 2014, and hence the win there was more than symbolic.
Rahul, whose every utterance was caricaturised by the BJP, is now being seen as an earthy and committed leader, compared to Modi who is perceived as clever and street smart.
Meanwhile, his mother Sonia Gandhi, addressed a campaign rally after two years on May 8, launching a scathing attack on Modi saying he is a good orator and speaks like an actor.
“Modi indeed is a great orator. He makes speeches like an actor. I want him to make more such speeches if it fills the stomachs of the people. But his speech cannot fill the stomachs, cannot guarantee women empowerment, jobs, etc,” she said.