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Rahul Gandhi at UC Berkeley lashes out at Modi govt and demonetisation, speaks on dynastic politics

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday morning took jibes at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Narendra Modi government as he spoke on the issue of 'India at 70' at the University of California, Berkeley.

Rahul started his speech by using an anecdote about the December 2004 tsunami in India.

"Many years ago, there was a huge tsunami in India," he said, "One of the tribal people in Andaman and Nicobar Islands told me that when the tsunami comes, the sea goes out and a huge number of fish get stranded."

"Therefore, the tribals knew that when a tsunami comes, the sea goes out. When the tsunami came, all the non-tribals went out to get the fish. Some of the tribals went to the non-tribals and told them not to go. And that's why, no tribals died," said the Congress vice-president.

"And as a liberal today, that's what I feel. Everyone knows that something has gone wrong. Right-wing politicians are telling people to go and pick up the fish... But you're not going to get simple answers," he said.

 Rahul Gandhi at UC Berkeley lashes out at Modi govt and demonetisation, speaks on dynastic politics

File image of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

"The idea of non-violence is under attack today, yet it is only idea which can take humanity forward," he added.

"The only response to a person having a bad idea is is love and compassion. Using violence against a person infected by a bad idea results in the idea spreading. This non-violent philosohphy has spread far beyond India. Non-violence is hard work. It is this idea that is viciously under attack today," Rahul said.

"When Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda spoke about bringing computers to India, a leader of the BJP who became prime minister of the nation said, 'What do we need computers for?'," he pointed out.

Rahul then spoke about the significance of India's story of development.

"For everything anyone says about India, there is no democratic country in human history that has raised as many people out of poverty as India. We have done it peacefully together... It is imperative that India sustain a high growth rate for 10 to 15 years uninterrupted," said the Congress vice-president.

On economy and jobs

"No amount of growth is enough for India if it is not accompanied by creation of jobs. So, the central challenge for India is jobs. Roughly, 12 million people enter the job market every year... India does not have and nor does it want China's coercive instruments," he said.

He then said the Modi government was currently paying attention only to the top 100 companies in India.

"India needs to turn colossal number of small and medium businesses. Currently, attention is only being paid to the top 100 companies in India. Big businesses are protected by their deep pockets," he said.

"What India is trying to do is to connect its people with the global economy. If this process breaks down, it will shake the entire world," he said. "Listening to India is very important. We have experts in every single field. Currently, we are not producing enough jobs. 30,000 new youngsters are joining the job market every day and yet, the government is creating just 500 jobs every day," said the Congress leader.

On intolerance

The Congress vice-president then attacked the government on various fronts.

"What can destroy our momentum is the opposite energy: Hatred, anger and politics of polarisation, which has raised its ugly head in India today," said Rahul.

"Muslims are being killed in India today, liberal journalists are being shot," he said, referring to the murder of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh.

On demonetisation

Rahul then hit out at demonetisation.

"The government's economic policies like demonetisation and GST were applied hastily. Millions of jobs were wiped out after demonetisation. Farmers were hit very hard. Farmer suicides have skyrocketed throughout the country. Demonetisation, a completely self-inflicted wound, resulted in a loss of 2 percent in GDP," he said.

"Decisions like demonetisation were taken without asking Chief Economic Advisor and Parliament, which caused tremendous damage," ANI further quoted him as saying.

On Congress

After he finished his speech, when asked about what the Congress was doing to solve its problems which could get it back into power, Rahul said, "Any party which has been in power for 10 years will run into a problem. It is natural. The vision we had laid out in 2004 was for 10 years."

"Congress, unlike the BJP and RSS, is basically a conversation. Most of my work is sitting in a room and listening to people."

"If you look at most of the things BJP is doing, they are things we said. The central architecture is that they borrowed from us. But that architecture does not work now because we know it stopped working," he said.

"We need to make a smooth transition between senior people and younger people. You can't just brush aside senior people," he added.

"India has basically lost its vision... Modi has clamped down on RTI. The amount of information that was flowing around during our time was much more than the amount now," said the Congress vice-president.

On the 1984 anti-Sikh riots

When questioned about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Rahul said that he was "with them in their quest for justice". "I lost my father and my grandmother to violence. If I don't understand violence, who will?" he said.

On dynastic politics

When Rahul Gandhi was questioned about dynastic politics, there was applause from the audience and a visibly nervous Rahul said, "This is a problem that is present in all political parties in India. Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast. (MK) Stalin is a dynast... Even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast. Don't go after me because the entire country is running like that. That's what happens in India."

He then added, "I do try to change that in the Congress party." He also said that during 2012, "arrogance crept into Congress party and we stopped having conversations with people."

On being asked whether he was a reluctant politician, Rahul said, "There is a BJP machine that basically tells you about me. They tell you I'm reluctant. They tell you I'm stupid. You've seen me now. You make up your mind. This operation is basically run by the gentleman running our country," he said.

On being asked whether Rahul would become the Congress president soon, he said that he was ready to head Congress but decision was not his.

On India's political machinery

He said that the "political machinery" in India had now become weak. "Our political machinery — the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha — they are not as empowered as they should be," he said.

"Laws in India are made by ministers and five or six people surrounding the ministers. To me, 546 people in Lok Sabha should be 546 institutions," he said. "Today, our MPs don't make laws. They get worried about making roads in villages. That is the fundamental thing that has gone wrong in India... Taking India to the next level is ensuring our Parliament works."

On Jammu and Kashmir

The Congress vice-president also had a lot to say about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

"For nine years, I worked behind the scenes with (the then) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Chidambaram, Mr Jairam Ramesh and a large number of people and we worked silently on Jammu and Kashmir. When we started in 2004, terrorism was rampant in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2013, I hugged the (then) prime minister and told him one of his biggest successes was the end of violence in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

"We did that by holding panchayati raj elections. We did by linking women to banks... Our strategy was to close the space for terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

"In 2014, the Indian government did something that inflicted a huge strategic cost in India," Rahul said.

"PDP was the instrument that brought Kashmiri youngsters into the political space. The day Mr Modi made an alliance between PDP and BJP, he destroyed PDP as an instrument for bringing youth into the political space," he said.

"Today, the space in Jammu and Kashmir has been opened up not only for Pakistanis but for terrorists," Rahul said.

Rahul also implied that Modi had dictatorial tendencies. "What I sense is he doesn't converse with people he works with. Even Members of Parliament and BJP tell me that," ANI quoted him as saying.

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Updated Date: Sep 12, 2017 09:12:09 IST