As the race for the Lok Sabha polls heats up, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has claimed that Narendra Modi is more a "publicity minister" than a prime minister and he is floundering because of his arrogance.
In an interview to PTI, Gandhi said the prime minister's behaviour betrays a "sense of panic" and alleged that he was obsessed with self-promotion.
About his own prospects of being prime minister, Gandhi said it would be arrogant for him to comment on the issue. Asked if he was open to being the PM, he said it was for the people to decide and added "people are the masters. I am working for them".
Accusing Modi of pushing a particular narrative in media through the PMO, Gandhi said the prime minister will not be able to deflect real issues. The Congress chief also castigated him for "failing" to deliver on his 2014 poll promises and for presiding over a "failed" economy.
"Mr Modi's arrogance and thirst for power, his obsession with self-promotion, even when that promotion is filled with lies, and his false belief that only he has the solution to each one of India's problems and consequently, he doesn't need to consult anyone else, is why he is floundering," he said when asked what was his last message to the PM before the elections.
On key issues before the country, the Congress chief said, "Unemployment, Unemployment, Unemployment; Farmers, Farmers, Farmers; a failed economy and personal corruption of Mr Modi'."
He listed the "destruction of institutions, increase in hate and bigotry, a palpable increase in anger and violence in society and attacks on the rights of SC/STs" as some other issues that the electorate would consider when it sets out to vote.
He claimed the major election issues would be the false promises of Modi such as "depositing Rs 15 lakh in each bank account", creation of two crore jobs, building 100 smart cities and the bringing back black money from abroad.
"In the midst of the gloom created by the BJP, the Congress's NYAY offers a ray of hope and its incredible scale and transformational potential, is going to make it a key issue in this election," he said.
On whether he was the future prime minister, Gandhi quipped, "It would be arrogant for me to say so. Who am I to say that? It is for people of India to decide. My position is to work for India's betterment and to defend the ideals of the Congress. What happens after is for the people of India to decide."
On the perception that the BJP has an edge in the war of narratives after the Pulwama attack, the Congress chief said there was pressure created on the media through phone calls, threats of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, to push a "particular narrative".
"There's pressure on the media to push a particular narrative that comes out of the PMO. There are some voices in the media who are fighting this pressure and I commend them," he claimed.
"But the narrative on the ground is clearly that Narendra Modi has failed at addressing the job crisis, he has failed on matter of agricultural distress and has damaged India's economy. That narrative is not going to shift," he said.
Gandhi claimed that India was in "extreme pain on account of government's policies and growing unemployment".
"That's not changing, that's there; that's fundamental; that isn't going anywhere. We're going to win this election on those issues and on a positive narrative being set by the NYAY scheme, job creation, investing part of GDP in education and healthcare and addressing the agriculture distress," he said.
On electoral funding, Gandhi said that while the Congress completely supports the demand for transparency, electoral bonds were actually doing just the opposite.
"Mr Modi, a man who came riding on the plank of fighting corruption, has done everything to encourage corruption, and electoral bonds are a principal example," he said.
Asked how important this election was for the Congress as the party was down to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi said, "The last election was an aberration. This election, we will do much better with the people's support."
The Congress chief said the party after 2014 had got down to basic brass tacks to rework, rebuild and resurrect the organization as a whole and it was initiated by decentralizing power.The party is using technology to communicate more effectively with its workers, right up to the booth level, Gandhi said, adding SHAKTI is one such technology-driven platform that now has over 10 million workers registered on it.