Rahul Gandhi sought to boost his party's morale on Sunday by affirming that there would be a Congress-led UPA-III even as he hit out at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for "inexcusable failure" of governance during the 2002 riots for which he demanded "legal accountability".
Debunking opinion polls predicting heavy losses for the Congress, the party's chief campaigner acknowledged that there was a "certain amount of anti-incumbency against us", but maintained that it would do better than the 2009 elections when it had won 206 seats in the face of similar grim predictions.
Refusing to hazard a guess about the number of seats Congress expected in the Lok Sabha elections because he was not a "soothsayer", Gandhi said, "Congress is fighting a challenging election and we will win the election."
Gandhi spoke about the election prospects, his main rival and Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Modi, the 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 anti-Sikh riots, BJP's record on corruption and some aspects of his personal life during an hour-long interview with PTI Editor-in-Chief M K Razdan at his residence.
In his sharpest attack on Modi over the post-Godhra riots, he dismissed talk of a clean chit to the Gujarat Chief Minister as "politically expedient" but "far too premature".
Contending that Modi was answerable on moral grounds, Gandhi said, "beyond that there should be a legal accountability for the clear and inexcusable failure of governance under him".
Gandhi was answering a question on BJP's contention that Modi had been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court- appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the courts and, therefore, he had nothing to answer for or apologise for about the post-Godhra riots.
He replied, "As you know, the SIT report had been seriously questioned by a number of credible experts. Grave flaws have been pointed out in the functioning of the SIT.
The acceptance of the flawed SIT report by the lowest court has not yet been subjected to judicial scrutiny by higher courts.
"The specific allegations and evidence pointing to Mr Modi's responsibility in the 2002 riots are yet to be adequately probed. Any talk of his having been given a clean chit may be politically expedient, but is far too premature.
There are many unanswered questions. There is a lot more the country needs to know," he said.
'Congress Not Underdog'
Acknowledging that after 10 years in power "there is a certain amount of anti-incumbency against us", the Congress campaign chief, nevertheless, disagreed with senior party leader and Finance Minister P Chidambaram's view that the party was an underdog and faced an uphill task. More