INDIA Minister in damage control after remark on Rahul
Khurshid calls Rahul a political cameo, makes volte-face under party pressure
New Delhi: Federal law minister Salman Khurshid kicked up a political row yesterday by describing the ruling Congress party general secretary Rahul Gandhi of indulging in political cameo before blaming the media for wrong interpretation of what he said.
“Until now, we have only seen cameos of his thought and ideas like democratising elections to the Youth Congress. But he has not weaved all of this into a grand announcement. This is a period of waiting,” Khurshid was quoted as saying by The Indian Express in its Tuesday edition.
He did not stop at that and added: “The fact is that he [Rahul] is undoubtedly and unquestionably the number two leader in the party. Yet he has not taken up the mantle or accepted a functional responsibility. He is so far not willing to accept the number two position. In such a situation, we have to wait. This is a waiting time.”
Khurshid’s statement coming within days of the Time magazine terming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as underachiever in its upcoming cover story rattled the Congress party leadership which asked Khurshid, a third generation Congress leader, to clarify his stand.
“I was asked some questions and whatever I said was wrongly interpreted. If you [media] are unable to interpret statements properly, then many other issues will be discussed only within the party,” Khurshid said later in the day in a bid to do the damage control exercise.
Khurshid, grandson of former President Dr Zakir Hussain and son of former federal minister Khurshid Alam Khan, is considered close to Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to be projected by the Congress party as its prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 general elections.
Khurshid was indirectly blamed for the Congress party’s poor performance in the state assembly elections in his home state Uttar Pradesh earlier this year after promising Muslims quota in government jobs, which many felt alienated the party from non-Muslim voters of the state.
Clarifying his comment to The Indian Express about Rahul’s reluctance to take greater responsibility, Khurshid said: “We want him [Rahul] to take responsibility as he is our leader and we want him to give power to the party. I have not said that he is not doing it. I have said that our new generation leaders should prepare themselves to face the new challenges.”
Khurshid also denied that he termed the Congress party as directionless or was critical of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to address not just economic reforms but also administrative and political reforms which he was quoted as saying are getting delayed.
“I haven’t said that Congress is directionless and there is no quote in the whole report and had I said that it means I am calling myself directionless,” he said.
Khurshid’s clarification did not stop the opposition from taking a dig at the Congress party. “It is not at all surprising that Congress leaders are echoing the same sentiment. As far as the Congress-led government is concerned, it lacks policies, leadership and accountability. The prime minister started off as a reformist but he has turned out to be a non-performer,” said the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The Samajwadi Party, a close ally of the Congress party, joined the opposition with its senior leader Shahid Siddiqui saying Khurshid has only shared a truth which Congressmen have been whispering to each other for quite some time.