Rahul dismisses criticism on his visits to dalit households

Rahul dismisses criticism on his visits to dalit households

"I personally don't believe in caste system...I go to a human being's house and not a dalit's house," he told reporters here.

He said it was the media which saw his trips to rural households as visits to dalit houses. "The frame of dalit is your frame, not mine...I ask my office to arrange for my visit to a poor person's home in the poorest village. You see him as a dalit, I see him as a poor person," he said.

He said he meets a tea vendor and a university student on the same lines. "I don't ask him (tea stall vendor) whether he is a dalit...the difference is in the opportunities. They are as intelligent and as smart as you, but had no opportunity to go to a university-- that is the only difference," he said.

Replying to a question, he said his learning process will end the day "I die".

"The day I die I will stop learning. I hope I will continue to learn till the day I die," he said, adding "learning is action and action is learning."

To a poser on the reaction of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on his visits to poor households, he said he would continue with his programme despite protests by the BSP chief.

Chiding Mayawati for ridiculing his visits to dalit households, Gandhi said, "If she doesn't like it, my apologies to her".

The Congress general secretary expressed confidence that his party will come to power in UP but did not want to hazard a guess when it will happen.

"I can guarantee that this is going to happen and people are going to be proud of the Congress government in the state," he said.

Asked about other Congress leaders in UP trying to emulate him, Gandhi was non-committal. "You ask them".

He also dismissed speculation that his visits to Kerala and West Bengal were part of a strategy to make inroads in the Red bastion.

Gandhi also came to the defence of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who has come under attack for twitting. "I get the sense that he is working hard for the country," he said.

On Tharoor's view that Gandhi Jayanti should not be a holiday, he said the minister has the right to have his opinion.

Gandhi said he was comfortable with the idea of observing a holiday on October 2 but If the government decided otherwise, it was fine with him. "It won't make a difference to Gandhiji."

On apprehensions that the recent FTA with ASEAN would hurt the interest of Kerala farmers, he said, "Nothing will be done to damage" their interests.

On the upcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra, he said, "We will do well. We have a strong alliance with NCP in the state".

Gandhi said he was "extremely impressed" by the way students were willing to join politics and described drives in various parts of the country to induct youngsters in Youth Congress as successful.

He said the system in the party had a place for all sections of the society, including SC, STs and women. "Our system positively discriminates towards weaker sections".