Congress leader Milind Deora, who is accompanying Rahul Gandhi on his two week US tour across the West and East coasts says the BJP criticism of Rahul Gandhi’s speech at UC Berkeley is born of the “heartburn” the implicit context of progressive and liberal values has sparked in India’s ruling party.
“It’s because it's Berkeley that it provoked that kind of reaction, it’s a good thing. It’s their (BJP) job to criticize but the instantaneous way they reacted - in a very hostile and belligerent way…I think was largely because they understood it was a University like Berkeley where a party like BJP would not be welcome or where they would not be encouraged…We were invited to speak, it was well receieved by the Bay Area community, I think that perhaps caused some heartburn. Besides that, I’m not following what they are doing”, Milind Deora told Firstpost New York over phone from Los Angeles.
Deora, a former Minister for Telecom, IT, Posts, Shipping and Ports, has spoken at UC Berkeley in 2015.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s remarks at UC Berkeley came in for a swift smackdown from the BJP’s Smriti Irani who said "A failed dynast today chose to speak about his failed political journey in the US... The country (India) is not listening (to him) so he is speaking somewhere else.”
Within America, the UC Berkeley campus has become a flashpoint for political divisions, drawing extremist groups from the left and right. Berkeley itself has long been a beacon for free speech and liberal values.
Son of former Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who had deep ties with the US and in Washington DC in particular, Milind Deora says that a lot of the itinerary for the Rahul Gandhi US tour is the fruit of the family’s long years of links with US stakeholders.
Some pinch hitters, including tech billionaire Vinod Khosla, from the US West Coast who've been checked off the list are below:
— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) September 11, 2017
— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) September 14, 2017
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 13, 2017
After finishing up in the US West Coast, Rahul Gandhi and team is moving East to Washington D.C and New York.
Excerpts from a conversation with Milind Deora, lightly edited for brevity, are reproduced below:
On BJP’s response after Rahul Gandhi’s UC Berkeley speech
"I found it quite interesting that they reacted in the way they did and sent out so many ministers to react and tweet. Maybe Mr. Gandhi has a different view…The reason I chose Berkeley is because of the impact Berkeley has on liberal, progressive politics the world over. Suppose we had done this at Stanford University, it wouldn’t have evoked the same kind of reaction even with the same context. It’s because it’s Berkeley that it provoked that kind of reaction, it’s a good thing. It’s fine, it’s their job to criticize but the instantaneous way they reacted in a very hostile and beliigerent way is largely because they understood it was a University like Berkeley where a party like BJP would not be welcome or encourage them…We were invited to speak, it was well recieved by the Bay Area community, I think that caused some heartburn. Besides that, I’m not following what they are doing."
On what Congress hopes to juice from the 2 week US trip
“In my view, this is a work in progress to meet people across various constituencies. To me, based on the response we’ve received at least in California, the kind of people who’ve turned out in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to meet have been leading VCs, CEOs and CFOs which is encouraging. The ability to share ideas with them, learning from them on what we can replicate in India is important in itself. At the Berggruen Institute, top film makers, Hollywood executives and finance companies based in LA met with us. It’s been a very good visit to California where most Indian politicians don’t go - my father went there in 2001. Our upcoming Washington D C is also looking good, despite Congress not being in session. I’m hoping these visits become more regular and not just to the US. This outreach is important."
On key messages Congress seeks to percolate
"One is to give people a sense of …regardless of which party is in power, India is united, we work together, share similar visions and a lot of the messages that have come from Rahul (Gandhi) is that we support Narendra Modi on many issues and on many foreign policy issues and economic issues, we’ve actually worked unitedly with the government and the proof is clearly in the pudding. That’s an important message to bring to people - that we may have massive differences politically but when we’ve been able to come together and work together.
"Second message - what are the values that the Congress Party represents? In Silicon Valley, the big discussion that was happening with the VC round tables was how innovation stems from an open society and what is an open society, what do political parties do to close a society. It is important for Silicon Valley’s best and brightest to know what the Congress Party stands for and that we believe in a free flow of ideas, people and capital because these are the things that enable innovation. We are not here to critique or criticism anybody.
"All this is not very different from what he (Rahul Gandhi) is saying in India. The narrative that he is espousing is something already known very well to him and he is comfortable with that. He was very excited when the invite came in."
On response from the US audience
"Based on how the government is in India, there may have been attempts to block meetings from happening or keeping people away from coming and meeting but even if they tried - I’m not saying they did but if they tried, it hasn’t impacted anything. People have still come and met us and remain interested in what’s happening ( in India). People have asked if there are parallels between what’s happening in India and the United States. The UC Berkeley event went well, so it’s a good thing. But this has to happen regulalrly not once every five years and then forgotten. There has to be an active outreach to Indians in these communities. Indians in the UK, Indians in the Middle East…Silicon Valley is a community and an area from which we have so much to learn from and from where we can attract investment. For the Congress Party to build sustainable relations with these people, this outreach has to happen on a more sustained basis."
Updated Date: Sep 15, 2017 03:18 AM