In Princeton, Rahul takes on Modi for his inability to create jobs and polarising society
After his bedazzling speech at Berkeley, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi stopped over at Princeton University to interact with students. In his speech, Rahul took pot shots at the Narendra Modi-led BJP government for its inability to create jobs which, according to him, is leading to widespread anger against the ruling dispensation.
When questioned about the reasons for the rise of leaders like Modi and US President Donald Trump, the Congress Vice President said,
“Large part of our populations do not have jobs and cannot see a future. They are feeling pained that they have supported these type of leaders. The problem is that the record of leaders on these fronts is not good enough. I can't say it about Trump but I can certainly say it about Mr Modi.”
According to the Gandhi scion, 30,000 new people are entering the job markets every day in India but only 450 jobs are being provided leaving the rest unemployed. Blaming the lack of job creation as the main reason behind Congress' downfall in 2014, Rahul pointed out that the same people who voted for the BJP are now feeling the pinch because of the lack of employment opportunities.
“Those same people who got angry with us because we couldn't deliver on those 30,000 jobs are going to get angry with Mr Modi,” he said while accusing the prime minister of diverting the issue and pointing fingers somewhere else instead.
“There is anger building up in India, we can sense it. To me, the challenge is how to solve that problem in a democratic environment. That is a challenge and frankly, the Congress party was unable to do it and that is why Mr Modi came. But he is unable to do it. It is a deeper problem but first, we must accept it and then unite and try to work at solving it. Right now nobody is even discussing it.”
Making a point
Unlike his previous speech at Berkeley, Gandhi did not launch a frontal attack on the Modi government and instead chose to focus on jobs and unemployment.
Meanwhile, reiterating his support for initiatives like Make in India and Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Gandhi scion said that though it is a “powerful ideas”, he differed with their implementation.
Accusing the prime minister of making Make in India largely business-centric, he said that small and medium businesses should get special attention so that they could become big businesses and create jobs.
Citing the example of how the Congress supported the passage of GST, Rahul said that it is something the two parties agree upon. However, he did suggest that there are differences over the fine-tuning of the new tax regime.
“We would have preferred a uniform GST, they chose five levels. We chose a slow implementation but they chose faster implementation. There are spaces where we would agree with them,” he said while pointing out how the economic policies of both the Congress and BJP are almost identical.
“There is not much difference between their economic policy and ours other than the fact that we tend to do things like NREGA and Right to Food. On liberalisation and big businesses, we are on the same page,” he stated while adding that his central difference with the BJP lies in their policy of not carrying everybody along.
“We feel it is dangerous if India doesn't carry everybody along,” he said.
Labelling politics of polarisation as the central challenge in India today, Rahul warned that excluding a particular community would have disastrous consequences.
“To me, the single biggest achievement of Congress party is giving everybody in India a vision. In the 21st century, if you leave people out of this vision, you are asking for trouble. Central challenge in India is the politics of polarisation where you pit one community against another and you create spaces for other people to come in,” he pointed out.
Accusing the central government of forcing its vision down the throat of many states, he added that the minority community in India does not feel a part of the BJP's vision.
“To me, that is where the real danger lies. India's strength for thousands of years has always been its ability to embrace people and allow them to flourish in our system. That is what is being challenged in India today,” the Gandhi scion said.
He warned the government to not fiddle with this structure of harmony or else things won't happen as they are expecting them to. “To me, that is the single risk that India is facing. If we alienate our own people that will open up space for others to do mischief,” he said while adding that it was the single biggest difference between “us and Mr Modi and BJP”.
About the neighbours
Speaking on the possibility of democratisation of China, Rahul said irrespective of the path it chooses, China and India would reshape the world.
“Two huge countries are transforming from agriculture to urban modern countries. How these two countries do will fundamentally reshape the world. I am not in a position to say whether China should democratise. But, we have to compete with China and frankly we are not doing enough,” he said.
He also pointed out that China's ambitious One Belt One Road Project is a powerful vision and questioned whether India has any such vision and what does it look like.
Stressing on the need of balancing its relations with China, Russia, US and Iran, Rahul said that a strategic relation with US is important but a balance is required as far as other countries are concerned. “On this, there is a slight difference between us and the government.”
With the possibility of Rahul taking over as party president getting stronger, when asked about his vision for the party for the next decade, he said –
“Large part of what we are going to do is prepare the vision for the next 10 years that will focus on solving the job problem, agriculture, education and healthcare. We are going to build that vision not top down but bottom up. So, we build that vision by coming to students, other stakeholders and asking them how should India deal with particular problems.”
He did acknowledge how he faced backlash for trying to democratise youth politics in his party by holding elections. “People do not like transparency. Transparency is not easy, but disruptive,” he said.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen