Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today refused to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the indictment of Atal Bihari Vajpayee by the Liberhan Commission, saying he "respected" the former Prime Minister as a senior politician.
"Whether the Liberhan Commission has done a right thing or the wrong thing is not for me to say. I am not some sort of a judge to pass judgement on these types of things," Gandhi told a press conference here.
Gandhi's comments came a day after the Congress adopted a conciliatory tone virtually giving a clean chit to Vajpayee in the conspiracy to bring down the Babri Masjid in 1992.
"Vajpayeeji is a senior leader and I respect him. As a young man and as a person nowhere near his experience...In our tradition I owe him a certain deal of respect, which I give," Gandhi added.
The Congress General Secretary said since he had not gone through the Commission's report into the demolition of the Babri Masjid, it would not be proper for him to comment.
"I actually have not gone into the details of whether he (Vajpayee) was given an opportunity or not given an opportunity (to depose before the Liberhan Commission)," he said.
Gandhi was responding to a question about the Liberhan Commission mentioning the former Prime Minister's name in the list of 68 persons, who were held culpable for the demolition of the mosque.
Gandhi also chided the media for "wrongly" reporting that he forced a pilot to land the helicopter he was travelling in under "zero visibility" in Sitapur last evening.
Taking a dig at the BSP Government in UP for denying permission to hold his press conference in a government building, Gandhi said politics in the state was "in the past" and Congress wanted to take it "forward".
"Where the press conference is held is not important. I want to communicate to the youth and the youth wants to communicate with me," he said in reply to a question on the cancellation issue.
"My aim is to change the view the way politics is done in UP. Politics of the state is in the past. We want to take it to the future," Gandhi said.
The UP Tourism Department had yesterday reportedly cancelled the venue of the press conference which the state government had later denied.
Despite the state government's disclaimer, the youth Congress shifted the venue of the press conference to a private hotel.
On being asked about spiralling prices of essential commodities, Gandhi said he had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had assured that all efforts were being made to check them.
"I actually held discussions with the Prime Minister on this issue. I asked him about the rise in the prices of pulses and he said full efforts were on to improve the situation," he said.
The prices of pulses were spiralling due to various factors and the government was making efforts to control it, Gandhi said, adding at the state level too there were issues such as hoarding.
Regarding UP Congress' 'Mission 2012' programme, Gandhi said his focus was on bringing youth of the state into the party fold and not elections in 2012 or beyond.
"My habit is not to focus on polls but to focus on UP's future and to bring the youth to take the state forward. I focus on changing the political thought process of the state which is necessary," he said.
Gandhi said he had opened the doors of Youth Congress and NSUI for the youth who did not have "any political background or backing" and make them "capable" leaders.
Asked if he refused the Prime Minister's chair because he lacked capability, the Congress leader said, "Yes, that is the reason."
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "globally respected and appreciated".
"There are many many more capable leaders in the party to become Prime Minister," added.
To a query on holding open organisational polls for the Congress party, Gandhi said it was for the senior leaders and party president to decide on the matter.
Meanwhile in Kanpur, Rahul urged the youngsters to chalk out their own path instead of banking on senior leaders.
Addressing labourers, unemployed persons, young businessmen and party activists, Rahul Gandhi gave examples of Dr BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, while urging them to carve their own niche.
Replying to another question, Rahul said that in Youth Congress, persons in the age-group of 18-35 years will be allowed and the youth will be given priority in allocation of tickets in future elections.
When, a businessman Himanshu Kohli pointed the lack of resources in the state, the Congress MP said that the Centre could only allocate funds for development.
The onus of utilising fund lies on the state government, Rahul said and urged the educated youth to join politics.
However, the audience was saddened by the fact that Rahul Gandhi did not make any announcements pertaining to employment for the city.
A worker in a leather factory, Riyaz Ahmed said that he had gone to the venue with high expectations of establishing factories by the Congress scion, which could solve the problem of unemployment, but unfortunately this did not happen.
Ramesh Bhandari, an unemployed youngster said that they had thought of raising their problems with Rahul, adding, "But neither could we ask any question nor any announcements pertaining to employment were made."
I Respect Vajpayeeji as a Senior Politician: Rahul
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