If allies want, I will: Rahul on becoming PM

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Copy Edited Adam Rizvi:  Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday said he will become prime minister if allies want him but the first step is for all parties to get together and defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

It’s a two-stage process and a decision on who will be prime minister comes second, Gandhi said.

“We have had discussions with allies and what we decided is that this is a two-stage process stage — one is to get together and defeat BJP and stage two is, once the election is over then we will decide what happens,” the Congress president explained.

Probed further about the possibility of him becoming prime minister, Gandhi said, “If they (allies) want me, sure… I will.”

The Congress chief, who was speaking at the HT Leadership Summit, answered questions on a range of issues, including his temple visits and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Gandhi said he has been going to temples, gurdwaras, and mosques for years, but the issue of his visits to temples has suddenly been publicized.

“I guess BJP doesn’t like it. It infuriates them. BJP feels only they can go to temples,” he said.

He said he has developed a thick skin. He can understand the criticism and is not disturbed by it. “My response is to listen.”

“Leadership is an evolution. It is something which is constantly changing and you learn. At least in my evolution, I am going much more into listening to people and trying to understand them,” Gandhi said.

He added that while he does not see India in blocks, he believes every Indian is a stakeholder.

Taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS, Gandhi said a single, suffocating ideology is being imposed upon 1.2 billion Indians.

“The ideological center that is fighting the BJP can only be the Congress,” he said.

“I am ready to take criticisms and questions. Why can’t the prime minister do the same? India desperately needs healing and listening and all sections want it,” he said.

Asked about the difference between his leadership style and that of his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president said, “I have learned a lot from her, she has taught me to be patient. I used to be much more impatient. She tells me how to be patient, sometimes I tell her she is too patient.”

“She goes by gut feeling and I go by thinking,” Gandhi said.

He added that he now listens more, like his mother.

Replying to a question about whether there is anyone special in his life, Gandhi smiled and replied that he has a lot of special people in his life, like his mother and sister.

He also attacked the government on various fronts, including demonetization, foreign policy, and governance.

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