Rahul Gandhi confident despite polls forecasting electoral disaster

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:11am

Rahul Gandhi, whose family has dominated post-independence politics in India, forecast an unlikely victory for his beleaguered Congress party in upcoming elections as he gave his first-ever television interview.

The 43-year-old, the ruling Congress party's de facto prime ministerial candidate, linked surging opposition leader Narendra Modi from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with religious riots in his state in 2002.

And dismissing polls that show his party heading for an electoral humiliation, Gandhi declared he was "reasonably confident" about securing a third consecutive term for the left-leaning Congress. "I will win the election," Gandhi said.

His comments come after a weekend survey showed the graft-tainted Congress, which has ruled India for the past decade, would win just 92 to 108 seats in elections due by May, down from 204 it holds now.

Gandhi has kept a low profile since entering politics as an MP in 2004, rarely speaking in or outside of parliament and refusing various opportunities to join the cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

His great-grandfather was post-independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru, while his grandmother and father were also prime ministers. His mother, Sonia, is Congress president.

Gandhi said he was against the idea of hereditary power, despite a victory for the Congress party meaning he would almost certainly become prime minister.

"I am absolutely against the concept of dynasty. Anybody who knows me knows that and understands that," he said. "But you are not going to wish away dynasty in a closed system, you have to open the system."

As for Modi, whose BJP is poised to win between 211 and 231 seats in the 552-seat lower house, according to the latest survey, Gandhi sought to link him personally to riots in 2002.

The violence in Gujarat, which Modi has ruled since 2001, left up to 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead and Modi was accused of turning a blind eye to the bloodletting.

Modi has never been found guilty and investigations have cleared him of any personal wrongdoing.

"The Gujarat riots took place, people died; Mr Narendra Modi was in charge of Gujarat at that point," Gandhi said.

He said "the government in Gujarat was actually abetting and pushing the riots further".