New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday expressed herself clearly against early elections and ruled out any confrontation with the Left on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
“No, we are not in favour of early elections. As the Prime Minister has said the deadline is 2009. We are going to do all that we can to see that we implement our programmes till 2009,” she said in an interaction with Vir Sanghvi at the HT Leadership Summit.
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Gandhi said the government would be working to bring about a consensus with the Left on the nuclear deal.
Asked if that would mean even if it works against the government, she said “well, let us see because we are still in the process of talking to them.”
Gandhi said the government was not looking for confrontation with the Left because it is not in the ‘dharma´ of coalition. “The dharma of coalition is to work together, try and understand and accommodate each other’s view.”
To a suggestion that would she agree to if the newspapers were to come out with headlines tomorrow that ‘Congress backs out, no early election and no confrontation with the Left´, she shot back in lighter vein that “unless you write something like that, nobody will read your papers.”
Gandhi rejected a suggestion that her speech in Jhajjar, Haryana, on Sunday was an attack on the Left and maintained that her reference was to the opposition in the state.
She also disagreed with a question that the Left was being unreasonable with its position on the nuclear deal and that it was being a “stooge of China”.
“No, I don’t think they are being unreasonable. We have to understand the Left. They have certain ideology, they have some views. They are merely stating their views. Naturally, we are working together. We have to understand their views and we have to take note of what they say,” she said.
Asked about early elections, the Congress President said in 2004, the UPA coalition after winning the polls had made some commitments and it was only fair that they fulfilled them. “We must do all that we can do to see that we complete all these projects when we come to the end of the term.”
To a question, Gandhi regretted the perception that the UPA government was a “one issue” government obsessed with nuclear deal. “I regret it is being perceived like this. It is not true, there are a number of issues on which we are focussed.”
On the projection of her speech in Jhajjar as an attack on the Left parties, she said “everyone (in the hall) would want me to say that it was an attack on the Left. But it was not. I was in Haryana and talking about the opposition in Haryana to our government there. Even in the last sentence, I meant the Opposition in Haryana.”
“We are working in a coalition. If I want to say about something which I don’t agree with them, the last thing I would do is to go out and shout and scream and say I don’t approve of it. I don’t agree.
“I would call that person and tell him directly that I don’t agree with you,” she said citing an example of a company having a collaboration with somebody would not hold a press conference to announce they had differences with each other.
Gandhi said whenever she did not understand what an ally said, she would speak to the leader and explain her position “because we are working together. This is how it should be.”
When told that her wordings in the speech were interpreted as an attack on the Left, she said “I didn’t have it in my mind like that.”
Her remarks that probably her Hindi was not up to the mark were greeted with laughter in the audience.
Maintaining that she was ”absolutely satisfied” with the working of the UPA government, Gandhi said “I applaud the Prime Minister for the manner in which he has run the government and the coalition. ... The government has done a great deal of work .. (but) one is never satisfied”.
Replying to a question whether she was embarrassed by the economic success, she said she was proud of the economic progress made by the country, but also pointed out that “large pockets of poverty remained ...
“So we cannot brag about our economic growth. We cannot forget there are still areas where people live in extreme poverty,” the UPA Chairperson said.
Asked whether there was any tension between her and Singh, she said “those who have doubts about the Prime Minister and I working together obviously do not know either the Prime Minister or me”.
Maintaining that she and Singh had worked closely together for a long time and had an excellent working rapport, Gandhi said “if he feels he has to bring something to my notice, he does it in all frankness” and the same applies to her too.
Replying to a question whether she had thought of any leader other than Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, she emphatically said there was never a doubt. “No, never, absolutely not”.
She also dismissed a suggestion that the issue of having a Deputy Prime Minister had ever come up for consideration.