Shri Shashi Tharoor said as you know we are meeting as the 8th phase of polling is under way - 7 states 64 seats. It is really wonderful tribute to the Indian democracy. Our election has been conducted in such an admirable way almost free of incident with a great deal of international attention and respect being paid to our country for it is extremely peaceful way allowing its population to determine its own political destiny. I think all of us as Indians can be proud of this great moment. At the same time, of course as the election unfolds, we see a certain desperation setting in into certain peoples’ attitude and statements. It is quite striking e.g. having built up so much of hype including with suspiciously convenient polling result and so on being suggesting all sorts of inevitability of BJP victory. The BJP suddenly seems to realize that inevitable victory is not happening and there is a great deal of extraordinary attempts being made to create ex-post-facto rationalizations for the inevitable bad news coming on the 16th of May. We find that an attempt is being made to challenge the Election Commission - the very same Election Commission whose conduct of the elections has won universal praise and recognition around the world and now we are being told that certain individual will even defy the Election Commission to file another case against him because of the things he is saying about them. It very much looks like someone creating already ground to explain why the much hyped great victory is not actually going to happen. We have had various other sorts of examples of this desperation. I am sure some of you want to talk rather feeble attempt to point to a private company’s report commissioned by DIIP in the Ministry of Commerce somehow suggesting that Government of India supports the Gujarat model. Our Commerce Minister is on the TV right now debunking that notion. This is the view of a private company Accenture and that is about it.
We have had a disgraceful incident in Amethi today where the BJP candidate has actually gone into election booths in violation of existing practice. She has gone with vehicles that are not allowed in those booths and she has been intimidating voters for long period of time. In one case when she was caught for an hour in a particular booth in Jagdishpur attempting to intimidate the voters there. According to the testimony of the voters themselves who spoke to the Press about that behavior there, she has attempted to turn the tables against a Congress authorized volunteer who was there and who rightly objected to her conduct and who conveyed the Sector Magistrate that this was inappropriate and she has attempted to turn tables and make it an issue about the presence of the Congress volunteers rather than her own conduct. So we are saying more and more signs of desperate and shall we say amusing behaviour coming out of the party that until recently was suggesting that victory was inevitable. I think these are all signs that not only is inevitable but they are already pre-manufacturing the excuses that they will want to point to when it turn out on 16th May that they do not have the numbers that have been telling the nation and the world that they are going to have.
On the question of the reaction of the Congress party on the CBI filing a status report in the Supreme saying that there is no evidence against Amit Shah in a way giving clean chit to him, Shri Tharoor said as far as CBI’s action is concerned, I think it is one more proof that institutions in our country under the UPA rule function freely and independently because clearly as you know the Congress party may have a different view of the responsibility of certain individuals but the CBI, which, as you know, Amit Shah’s party has derived as Congress Bureau of Investigation has decided what to put in its own charge sheet. Needless to say that it is a charge sheet, it is not exoneration by a court and undoubtedly the family and other complainants could have the right to pursue the matter through the judicial process. We have rule of law in our country but the fact that the CBI has chosen not to do, chosen not to include in the charge sheet suggest that it is one more confirmation as we have seen time and again the functioning of the institutions in our democracy that the UPA has always believed that institutions should be allowed to function according to their own professional judgment and this is the CBI’s professional judgment.
To a question whether Shri Rahul Gandhi is going to campaign in Varanasi, Shri Tharoor said the fact is right now he is a candidate in a constituency that is going to the polls. As soon as that voting is over in Amethi, he would certainly want to be active in the campaign for the final phase. We do not have any official word on that.
To another question that it is only for the first time after 2004 that Shri Rahul Gandhi has to stay back in his constituency on the voting day, Shri Tharoor said it is quite normal for the candidates to remain in their constituency on the voting day. There is nothing unusual for Shri Rahul Gandhi to be there as the candidate in Amethi is one more sign of his commitment to the voters of the people of Amethi.
On the question of the Congress party’s assessment on the statement of Shri Sharad Yadav that this time it will be a hung parliament, Shri Tharoor said the Congress party has always believed that we are in this race to win and as far as we are concerned, we understand that in our country in our democracy, there is always a certain tendency for anti-incumbency. It was more interesting to discover e.g. that in the US Congress House of Representatives; the re-election rate is 96% whereas the re-election rate in the Lok Sabha is 26%. So the fact is that living in a democracy where anyone any party seeking re-election faces special challenges. It is, therefore, for us a matter of great satisfaction that not only we were re-elected in 2009 but we were re-elected with a significant increase in the number of seats. It is not impossible that we could be re-elected even with a slight decrease in the4 number of seats. Ultimately in a parliamentary system, it is not the percentage and opinion polls that matters; it is the total number of parliamentarians who are willing to support government formation. So, for us right now what Sharad Yadav Ji is saying strikes us as a possibility amongst other possibilities. What is more clear is that all this hype of BJP sweeping victory is not being taken seriously by any political observer including Mr. Sharad Yadav.
On another question as to the Gujarat development, Shri Tharoor said the particular is from a private company called Accenture. There is no such endorsement from any government agency. This is the report of their professional experts.
On the question of reaction of the Congress party on the elections in Andhra Pradesh being dominated by money power, Shri Tharoor said I must say that the Election Commission has been doing this job more effectively and the law enforcement authorities working with the Election Commission have obviously found plenty of fertile ground for their working in Andhra Pradvesh. Sadly, as you know, there have been seizures in other parts of the country also. I do not think it will be right for us to blame any one particular state but definitely we in the Congress party deplore any attempts by candidates to violate the norms of the Election Commission. It is something that we should remember that the Model Code of Conduct was freely agreed upon by all the political parties and adopted by the Election Commission on the basis of the agreement of the political parties and therefore, it is actually unworthy of any political party to violate the Model Code of Conduct which it itself has signed up to. I would certainly urge those whose illegal cash and liquor and gold and so have been seized to introspect about whether they should have brought into in the first place.
To another question on the remarks of Ms. Priyanka Gandhi on Modi, Shri Tharoor said this is very interesting thing because not only Ms. Priyanka Gandhi made no remarks to caste. There was nothing in her statement that had any bearing on the origins or the identity of Mr. Modi or anybody else. She was referring simply to the rather the base level of political discourse that we have been seeing from the BJP in recent weeks and in particular to the speech in Amethi which she felt and rightly in our view, contained large number of comments. That was simply unacceptable to her and so she said that this is a very low level of politics. What is striking is that Mr. Modi then proceeds to attempt to exploit a phrase ‘Neech Rajneeti’. That is what she said and to attach to it idea of ‘Jaati’ which never figured anywhere in her remarks and this is clearly and blatantly an opportunistic exploitation of a remark that has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Modi’s caste into a naked appeal for support on the basis of caste. So while the Congress party goes around and says please cast your vote, Mr. Modi says to OBC, please vote for caste. This, from our point of view, is low politics and let me say that you have not heard any Congress leader used the word ‘Neech’ in the context of caste in decade. If at all there is a reference to backwardness, you use a word ‘Picchrre’ and not using the word like ‘Neech’.
On the question of the charge of the AAP candidate that Shri Rahul Gandhi is himself involves in rigging in Amethi, Shri Tharoor said Shri Rahul Gandhi does not need to capture as booth or rig a vote. He has enjoyed the support and adulation of the public in Amethi for quite some time. My own view is every candidate is entitled to file any complaint they want and if he has filed a complaint, no doubt Election Commission will look into it and conclude that there is no evidence to sustain such a charge.
To another question on the comments of Shri Arun Jaitley on Ms. Priyanka Gandhi saying that she is a part time politician, Shri Tharoor said that was an unnecessarily petty remark. Ms. Priyanka Gandhi has been campaigning full time but she has done so in two constituencies. So if you like he can say, if he wants, she is a politician who has confined herself to only one part of the country but she has not been part time in any sense of the term. She has been full time, she has worked very hard and her presence as you know has been noticed by all of the media. On the other hand, we have seen Shri Jailtey going to Amritsar but I think he is in for a rude shock on the 16th of May, May be he will be a part time Lok Sabha aspirant and that is the phrase sticking in his mind.
On the question of the reaction of the Congress party on article published in Chinese Daily (Global Times) in China that if Modi is elected as Prime Minister, it will be in the interest of better ties between the two countries, Shri Tharoor said it was the Global Times who had written an article sometimes back that India should not forget 1962. India and China have a relationship that has a great importance to both sets of country. It is based amongst other things on a very-very significant level of trade, as you know, has been increasing every year for the last 30 years. In fact the level of trade has increased 250 times what it was just 25 years ago. So we are looking at a country which has obviously been having close relations with India under UPA rule and will have close relations with India if whichever next government is there, knows how to conduct such relations.
Shri Tharoor said the words that Mr. Modi has been using for the international affairs have not been properly responsible. Certainly he has created as unnecessary alarms in Bangladesh. There have been adverse comments made in Pakistan. I think if somebody is aspiring to be the PM of this country, they should have a sense of responsibility when they speak about India’s position in the world and relations with our country and the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate has not so far offered much encouragement to those who might like to believe that he is capable of stewarding the country’s fortunes in the neighborhood and beyond. So, I certainly hope that whoever becomes the Prime Minister after Dr. Manmohan Singh will look after India’s relations with China, Bangladesh and Pakistan but I do not expect it to be Mr. Modi.