Rahul has what it takes to be PM: Sachin Pilot

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot Sunday said he would support Rahul Gandhi as prime minister, but added that it was likely the Congress might not project him for the post.

"Rahul Gandhi has what it takes to lead the nation. His life ambition is not to become prime minister, unlike the BJP leaders, but to strengthen the party. The prime minister has asked him so many times to join the government, but he has not. He can lead a diverse and vast country like India," said Pilot, stressing that his party supported young leaders.

In an interview Sunday with IANS, Pilot said that even if the Congress did not project its vice president as prime ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi would "lead from the front" the campaign of the party for the 2014 general elections.

"Indian polls are not the US-type presidential polls which are personality-oriented. But Rahul Gandhi will lead the party from the front and he will be the lead campaigner along with party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," Pilot said.

"Rahul doesn't need any posturing and projection. He is a pan-Indian leader and has wide acceptability."

Thirty-five-year-old Pilot, representing Ajmer, Rajasthan, in the Lok Sabha, asserted that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance would return to power for a third term after the 2014 general elections.

Asked about the string of corruption scandals the UPA has faced, including in the Commonwealth Games 2010, and in allocation of spectrum and coal blocks, the minister said: "We need perception correction in government. The corruption scandals were unfortunate."

He said the people should, however, judge the government on a balance, rather than by a few incidents. He said the UPA had provided stable governance over the past nine years.

"A lot of work was done, but remained unsaid. In the past nine years, we gave stable politics. The Congress proved it can run a coalition government," Pilot said.

To corroborate, the minister said UPA-II would show that the economy is on a recovery path, fiscal deficit is under control, and inflation marginally lower. He said all these require work, and more investments would continue to flow in.

The minister said the government had, in the past four years, brought in important legislation like the Lokpal bill, the food security bill, the land acquisition bill and policies like foreign equity in multi-brand retail and direct cash transfer scheme.

"This will give people a sense of a functional government. I am sure the people will give the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) a third term," said Pilot.

He said the opposition BJP was a divided house, as its senior leaders clamoured for the prime minister's post.

"The Gujarat chief minister thumps his chest, saying he is the most suitable candidate for the prime minister's post. The people will not approve of it," he said.

According to Pilot, if Modi was named the BJP's prime minister candidate, that party would have difficulty finding allies.

Stating that it was unfortunate that allies like Trinamool Congress and DMK left UPA-II in the past six months, he, however, asserted that UPA had a comfortable majority in parliament.

He also said the government would last its full term, and the next general elections would be held only in 2014.

Confident that he would be returned to the next Lok Sabha by the people of Ajmer, Pilot said: "I never take people's mandate for granted. When I fight, I fight to win. My approach is humble, do your work and people will elect you. I hope they will vote for me and I will get back."

He said the presence of young ministers like him indicated that the party and government have faith in them.

"It has given us a large platform. It shows the party cares. We need exposure. Our role is increasing," he said.

"Now it is my responsibility to hold the hands of younger people. I got support from my seniors, and now it's time to pay back. That is the Congress mentality," Pilot said.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at amit.a@ians.in)

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