Reiterating that 'merit and capability' were the key criterion for the top job, the party's most influential general secretary told mediapersons in Lucknow during the course of his two-day tour of Uttar Pradesh, "There are many people in our party, who are much more capable than me to hold the office of the prime minister."
He went on to add, "In fact, we have the most capable person as the prime minister today; and his merit is recognised not only by people of this country, but even the rest of world acknowledges Dr Manmohan Singh's capabilities."
Rahul said, "As far as I am concerned, I have only one agenda -- how to ensure that the young and bright get actively associated with the Youth Congress and the NSUI, in order to make these organisations vibrant so as to bring about the desired changes in the process of democracy."
He, however, flatly denied that his objective in re-activating the youth bodies was limited to electoral politics linked with the next UP state assembly elections in 2012. "My mission has been misconstrued as some kind of an exercise aimed solely as a build-up for the 2012 assembly poll here," he asserted. "On the contrary, my mission is to look beyond electoral politics -- to change the thinking of the youth and to inspire them to come forward and join the political mainstream," Rahul added.
He made no bones about limiting himself to the re-activation of the democratic process within the Youth Congress and NSUI. "Besides throwing open the earlier closed doors of these organisations to more and more youth, an important part of my current mission was to conduct organisational elections in various units of these two bodies," he said.
He was obviously referring to the membership drive that had been started in these organisations after a gap of more than two decades.
When questioned why his party was giving prominence only to the progeny of the high and the mighty, Rahul shot back, "The trouble is that that you people have your focus only on them; the media has not cared to know the hundreds of lesser known others who have no background or backing, but were engaged in doing tremendous jobs as activists of our two youth bodies in different parts of the country."
He however hastened to add, "But at the same time, in a democracy, you cannot treat one's association with families of established politicians as a disqualification."
When his attention was drawn to the absence of any employment generation activity in his scheme of things, the Congress general secretary said, "Well, Youth Congress and NSUI were not employment exchanges, but there is no denying that these organisations will in due course come out with their own plans to tackle unemployment, which was definitely one of the key issues."
On his effort to tackle the crucial issue of price rise, Rahul sought to pass the buck to the state government. "I have raised the issue of rising prices with the prime minister and he has assured me that serious effort was being made to bring down prices of pulses; however, at the state level, I feel the problem has aggravated largely on account of hoarding."
The Congress leader was, however, unaffected by the UP government's sudden cancellation of allotment of its tourism directorate's auditorium for his press conference. "It does not bother me if we were led to change the venue for my press conference because of a certain attitude of the state government; what was more important for me was to express my views and to pursue my mission," he declared.
In an obvious bid to steer away from controversies, he also declined to make any comment on the indictment of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by the Liberhan commission, probing the Babri Masjid demolition case. "Vajpayeeji is a very senior politician and I owe him deep respect; as far as his indictment is concerned, I would not like to make any comment as I am not aware of the full contents of the report."