Limkheda: Sometimes, it is bang in the middle of a tough fight that a politician discovers his direction and designs his discourse. The evidence of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi raising the ruling BJP’s heckles in Gujarat came when it drafted Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Yogi Adityanath to speak of the neglect of Amethi just when he was drawing cheers and whistling at his jibes on the Narendra Modi government.
There is no election in Amethi, but there is one in Gujarat.
It is not just about Rahul drawing crowds that has pushed a panic reaction in the BJP. Of course, that itself is news, given that this is happening in Narendra Modi’s prized state carefully nurtured over 22 years. But it's also because he is hitting at the very vitals of the prime minister’s decisions and policies, and in the process, delineating and fine-tuning the Congress party’s long term direction towards a welfare state with shades of Nehruvian socialism. And he is finding a connect, that too in Gujarat.
It is again not just a reaction to what Modi is doing and not doing, he also expands on his theory in his various interactions with students, youth, farmers, women attached to milk cooperatives, health ASHA workers.
This is besides Rahul's own take on free speech and democratic values. Criticising the RSS for its patriarchal “attitude of keeping women quiet”, he said at an interaction with youngsters in Vadodara city, known for its vibrant academic values, “I am too much on the other side, personally. All kinds of criticism should be allowed and welcome, even if it is unpleasant and has mistakes. I don’t believe in suppressing anyone.” He said he was for a free flow of all opinions, even if it was the harshest.
Albeit, while making this point, Rahul went overboard and asked the crowds if they had seen women wearing shorts going to RSS shakhas and may have given away an issue to the BJP on a platter. He took a moral democratic high to say, again at another interaction in Vadodara, that the BJP might speak of a Congress-free India but he would never say something like that about the BJP since both the political parties are ideologies born in the same country and that this had nothing to do with him fighting the BJP politically.
He meant these and several other things when he said the following words at one of the public meetings during the last three days:
“BJP ne meri bahut madad ki. 2014 polls jo hum haare usse faaydemand cheez aur nahi ho sakti. Meri pitai kar-kar ke unhone meri aankhen khol di (BJP helped me a lot. Nothing could have been more beneficial for us than our defeat in the 2014 polls. By continuous ridicule, the BJP opened my eyes).”
The direction that Rahul seems to be discovering for the future was evident from his views against privatisation in the crucial education and health sectors, which, according to him, were the responsibility of the state.
He was surprised that there was capitation fee in Gujarat when a homoeopathy student said he paid Rs 4 lakh as “off the record donation” besides his regular fees of an equal amount in a self-financed private college. Rahul had a similar experience both in the upmarket Vadodara city and the tribal Chhota Udaipur region on self-financed private colleges.
At both places, he asked if they got jobs after spending on capitation fees and the reply was in the negative.
“Not just in Gujarat. This is happening everywhere, privatisation of education,” making it tough for the poor to avail. Rahul pointed out that after paying huge fees, there aren’t adequate jobs. He made a candid admission here that the performance of the UPA was much better than the present government on the job front, but was still not adequate and needed to be much better. Rahul has similar views on the health sector, where Gujarat has adopted a public-private-partnership for the upgrade of government hospitals.
The first such medical college attached to a government hospital in Palanpur in North Gujarat has been handed over to a public trust where Gujarat Health Minister Shankar Chaudhary is the main trustee. The Aam Aadmi Party has raised this issue with all documents. There are five more such medical colleges in the pipeline.
Rahul also clubbed this issue with the Gujarat government’s policy, which was introduced by Narendra Modi when he was chief minister, to outsource many government jobs including that of teachers, aanganwadi and ASHA workers. Rahul said the Congress party would reverse all this when it comes to power.
On employment generation and overall sense of prosperity, Rahul said Gujarat could show the way forward to the country but not by the oft-touted Gujarat model of “pampering a handful of five to 10 industrialists”, but by recognising the strength of the state’s small and medium businesses, including SMEs.
He said, “It is the small and medium businesses which can generate employment” and bring about prosperity. “I am not saying the large industry should be completely ignored, but it can’t be ceded the complete space as is happening in the name of Gujarat Model,” Rahul said, promising that all this would change under a Congress rule.
“Our Gujarat model is the old model of Amul, of Gandhiji and of Sardar,” he said, speaking to women of milk cooperatives and various other places. “We will listen to your mann ki baat and not impose on you,” he repeated at several places.
The Congress president-in-waiting indeed gave good indications of what is in his mind.
Updated Date: Oct 12, 2017 07:51 AM