Congress president Rahul Gandhi admits that he did visit INS Viraat with his father, late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, but adds that it was an official trip, not a holiday. “Why would anyone holiday on an aircraft carrier? It’s not a cruise ship!” he said in an interview. Gandhi was responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment at a rally in New Delhi that Rajiv Gandhi misused INS Viraat as his “personal taxi” during a vacation to Lakshadweep (in 1987) and also hosted foreigners on board.
Gandhi says he doesn’t want to respond to the flurry of attacks on his father during the election campaign of 2019. “Mr Narendra Modi is obsessed with my family. I’m not obsessed with my family. I don’t think about my father, grandmother or great-grandfather as much as Mr Modi does. He thinks that that’s the place where he’s going to find his escape. Best of luck to him!’’
Responding to Aam Aadmi Party leader and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal saying that he would back Gandhi for prime minister if he supported full statehood for Delhi, the latter said he is “fond of all these leaders” and respects them, but that the “only voice that has a right to decide who becomes the PM of India’’ is that of the people.
When HT asked specifically about Kejriwal, with whose party the Congress failed to arrive at an arrangement with
despite elaborate talks, Gandhi said, “Mr Kejriwal to represents a voice just as Mr Stalin does or Jayalalithaji (late Tamil Nadu chief minister) did. India is a sum total of all these voices and that is something I absolutely respect.’’ Delhi goes to the polls on Sunday.
The Congress president also attacked the prime minister’s image of working 24×7. “I will bet you, whatever you want, that as far as thinking about India is concerned, I’m spending at least 10 times the amount of time that Mr Narendra Modi is spending.’’ He added that the best test of this would be a debate between him and the prime minister. When HT pointed out that former US president Barack Obama had remarked on Modi’s ability to work with less sleep, Gandhi said: “Mr Barack Obama was probably having him on! The Americans do psychological profiles of all leaders and they tell you exactly what you want to hear. And Mr Narendra Modi bought it hook, line and sinker.’’
In response to a specific question on the day he tore up a copy of the ordinance passed by UPA 2 that circumvented the Supreme Court-ordered ban on convicted candidates – resulting in the perception that he and then prime minister Manmohan Singh were not on the same page, something various leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including the PM, have commented on — Gandhi said that “maybe it was expressed in a way that was too aggressive. But see, I would never learn without regret.”