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Rediff.com  » Election » I am not ready to become the PM yet, says Rahul

I am not ready to become the PM yet, says Rahul

Last updated on: April 25, 2009 16:40 IST

Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said he would 'refuse the post of prime minister now' as he does not have the experience required for the top post.

"Now ... I would refuse," he said at a press conference in Kolkata when asked whether he would accept prime ministership in the near future. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was also present at the press meet.

"I do not think I have the experience to be the prime minister of the country right now," Gandhi, 39, said. 

He also said that he was working for developing a strong pro-poor Youth Congress, an initiative that has borne fruit in Punjab and Gujarat. During the nearly hour-long press meet, Gandhi responded to a volley of question ranging from the situation in Sri Lanka to the Left Front government's performance in West Bengal.

Gandhi listed two reasons for not accepting the prime ministership.

"One is that I am working in the organisation of the Congress party which I think is fundamental for this country. I think it is very important that a strong, progressive, pro-poor youth organisation is developed in this country and that is a very, very big priority of mine. Number two is I don't think I have the experience to be the prime minister of the country right now," he said.

Gandhi has batted strongly for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continuing in the post if the United Progressive Alliance returns to power.

Gandhi struck an aggressive note on being quizzed about the Bofors controversy and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and whether he was prepared to apologise for them.

"There is absolutely nothing that I have to apologise about Bofors. It is a complete lie," he said, adding that the controversy was a calumny spread by the opposition for 20 years.

Asked whether the Congress was keeping its doors open for a post-poll understanding with the Left parties, Gandhi remained non-commital.

"I am nobody to say whether the doors are open or closed. That is for the party president and prime minister to decide. But as a general principle, I can say that the doors of Congress are open for anyone willing to join us," he said.

Gandhi, who attacked the Left Front government in West Bengal over the implementation of the Centre's flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, said his views on this will not change even if 'the Left joins us' after the elections.

He said he was shocked to see that the benefits of the pro-poor scheme were not reaching the people in districts like Purulia. Gandhi said his perception was that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the worst states in the implementation of such programmes but "I was shocked by what I saw in West Bengal."

On the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Gandhi squarely blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for the act in 1992.

"The Babri Masjid was broken by the politics of BJP. It was broken by the politics of division, it was broken by dividing Indians against Indians," he said.

Mukherjee admitted that the Congress government, which was in power then, had made a mistake by trusting the solemn assurance given by the BJP and the then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, that the mosque would not be harmed.

"We regretted placing our confidence in an untrustworthy person," he said about Kalyan Singh's assurance to the National Integration Council that the Babri Masjid would be protected at all costs.

On the Congress and Mamta Banerjee's Trinamool Congress joining hands in West Bengal, Gandhi said "she (Mamata) is a lady of the people" and "a genuine grassroots leader."

Gandhi went on to add that he had 'fond memories' of Mamata and described the alliance with her party as 'positive'.

On the situation in Sri Lanka, he said the United Progressive Alliance government was concerned about the rights of innocent Tamil civilians becoming victims of the ethnic conflict. "It is our duty to reduce their suffering," Gandhi said, adding that the government will do everything possible in that direction.

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