Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be a straight contest between the BJP and the “entire opposition” and their “first priority” is to defeat the ruling alliance.
He said the issue of leadership will be taken up by opposition parties after the polls.
In an interactive session at the London School of Economics here, Gandhi also said that quality of debate in parliament was “low quality” as parliamentarians were not involved in making laws, “which were made by the prime minister, ministers and bureaucrats”.
Gandhi, who was asked questions about the next Lok Sabha elections, said it will be “pretty straightforward” contest between “Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on one side and the entire opposition on the other”.
Gandhi said almost the entire Opposition feel that “systematic attack was taking place on Indian institutions”.
“We are going to have a clear-cut election,” he said, adding that once the arithmetic of Opposition unity comes into play in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, “it becomes very difficult for the BJP to win”.
He said the Opposition was working to defeat an onslaught on the Constitution and to defend the nature of Indian state.
“The first priority is to defeat the BJP. Once election is over all conversation can take place (about the leadership). Not till we defeat the BJP,” he said.
Apparently referring to parties such as Shiv Sena, which are not likely to contest polls as partners of BJP, Gandhi said the next election was an “ideological battle”.
“We will not work with somebody who is not ideologically with us,” he said.
“I have tendency to reach out, listen,” he said, adding that it can help build coalitions.
Gandhi said he had over 15 years of experience in politics and has taken his share of shots to the chin.
Referring to the weaknesses of the Congress, Gandhi said the party is not able to express the ideas very effectively.
“The BJP and RSS are very clear in what they are saying. There is no confusion. RSS spends time on an idea. Congress needs to expand and be precise about what it stands for.”
Gandhi also said a reason the party did not do well in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls was due to “internal fight” between the younger and older generation.
“There are senior leaders with experience and with understanding and there are youngsters who are developing. You cannot break the past because there is a lot of value in some of the senior people. So, in a sense, the present has to be a merger of the future and the past. That’s really why Congress ran into trouble in 2014.”
Gandhi said he has tried to bring them together successfully. He also said that the threat in the Congress is “arrogance”.
He also said there was a full-blown job crisis in India but the government does not accept that.
Answering a query, Gandhi said he viewed the government as an enabler. “India has tremendous amount of energy. We have to put it together.”
On dynastic politics, Gandhi said he operates in a democracy and is attacked by the opponents and reacts to them. “The most important thing is what you bring on the table and how far you listen.”
He said there is need to make MPs more powerful in the process of making laws.
“Why debate in parliament is of such low quality… there is so much shouting. You give lawmakers more power. Quality of debate will improve,” he said.
Answering another query, he said the single biggest instrument against corruption is RTI.
Referring to the power of dialogue, he said “the extent of power in conversation surprises me”.
Gandhi said that rather than a top-down approach, he would prefer asking farmers about their problems and finding solutions.