New Delhi: Widely seen to be the Congress's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday appeared to distance himself from such talk saying building the organisation was his priority. "Asking me whether you want to be Prime Minister is a wrong question," he told party MPs in an informal discussion.
The issue of Rahul's marriage also came up in his chat with MPs. "If I get married and have children, I will be status quoist and will like my children to take my place," he told a former woman MP who shot the question.
The Congress Vice President's off-the-cuff remarks came during a discussion with a group of MPs on how he proposes to go about the task of building the party, empowering the youth and creating a middle level leadership. It assumes significance against the backdrop of a growing clamour in Congress for projecting him as its Prime Ministerial face before the next Lok Sabha elections.
The party was quick to latch on to his remarks claiming high moral ground saying it contrasted with other parties, where people are "fighting for posts". However, AICC spokesperson Rashid Alvi said as far as party workers are concerned, they want to see Rahul as prime minister. "I am sure that one day, Rahul Gandhi will become the prime minister", he said.
In his talk with MPs, 42-year-old Gandhi also gave signals that he was against the 'high command culture', saying that he wants to empower more and more people than a handful, who call the shots. "Today I see how MPs feel without power and it is the same story in all the parties, be it Congress or BJP. I want to empower the 720-odd MPs in Parliament.
"I want to give voice to the middle tier...empower the middle-level leaders. There are some parties in India which are run by one leader (BSP), two leaders (SP), five to six leaders (BJP) and 15 to 20 leaders (Congress). My priority is that I want to empower the MPs as also the 5,000-odd legislators in various states," he said.
Rahul said the 'high command' culture started in the 70s when "my grandmother was under severe assault...I knew her and if I would have been in her place, I would have also done likewise". Gandhi, who has often spoken of the ills facing the organisation, said that top leaders in several parties who are in decision-making authority come from the Rajya Sabha.
He gave ample signals that he wanted to change the organisation drastically from top to bottom and his ideal was Mahatma Gandhi and he believed in the "Nishkam Karma" of the Gita. Calling the Mahatma "my guru", he said Gandhiji could inspire people as also the rank and file of Congress as they knew that he was not one who is hankering after power.
Gandhi said he could take a holistic view of the scenario as regards party politics because "I am a parachute", implying he owed his leadership to the membership of the first family in Congress. The Congress Vice President regretted that all political parties have been designed in a manner that prevents the youth from getting key positions at a time when they are seeking a greater say in political affairs.
Stressing that he wanted to change the picture in this regard, he suggested that this was necessary to avoid an "explosion". "At one point, the pressure from the youth will be such that there will be an explosion," he said.
When an MP spoke about the change brought about by Barack Obama in US politics, Gandhi said that has happened in America because it is a developed state where systems have evolved. "Obama will not have an effect here," he said. Gandhi, who has eight years of experience in politics, said that the ideas of applying western model in Indian conditions will not work. He said he came to realise this while interacting with people in the villages.
He ignored a question on whether he planned to visit Wharton University in the US, where a planned address by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been cancelled. The Congress Vice President's remarks on the issue of PM candidate came at a time when BJP is experiencing a keen tussle among its top leaders with a section with the party pitching for Narendra Modi.