Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed students at the University of California in Berkeley on Tuesday. Speaking on ‘India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward’, Gandhi spoke about contemporary India and it’s way forward as the world’s largest democracy. The Gandhi scion who is on a two-week visit to the United States will interact with global thinkers, political leaders and oversea Indians.
Here are the top takeaways from Rahul Gandhi’s speech
On non-violence under attack in India:
India is a massive and one of the world’s most complex countries. Anyone who thinks he understands India is a fool. According to most Western academics and intelligence agencies in the middle of the last century, India was supposed to fail. Most experts predicted that it would fall apart, torn to pieces by its own diversity and contradictions. And yet, somehow as Indira Gandhi said when asked if India leans left or right, India came out standing straight and tall. The idea of Ahimsa and non-violence has allowed the huge mass of people to stand up together.
Instead of I having an idea, an idea has me is the basis of non-violence propagated by Mahatama Gandhi. Using violence against a person, who is infected by an idea, actually results in an idea spreading more aggressively. Non-violence is hard-work and not for the timid and weak. This beautiful struggle is under vicious attack in India, but non-violence is the only idea on which humanity can survive the connectivity of 21st century.
On India’s development:
India’s partition was the bloodiest migration recorded in history. At Independence there were many people who were poor and would sleep hungry. There is no democratic country in history which has raised so many people out of poverty as India. Small and medium size entrepreneurs are the bedrock of India’s economic progress. Unlike China, we have to create jobs in a democratic environment and these jobs will come from small and medium scale industries. However, currently, all the attention is paid to the top 100 companies.
On violence, anti-Sikh riots:
I understand what violence does. I lost my father, my grandmother to violence. If I don’t understand violence then I’d be ignorant. Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards, who shot her 32 times, were my friends. I used to play Badminton with them. So, on one day, I saw my grandmother shot and my friends shot. Violence against anybody is wrong, and I condemn it. I absolutely love the Sikh community. If there’s anything I can do to help them get justice, I’ll be the first person to do so. The politics of polarisation has raised its ugly head in India today. This is dangerous as it isolates people and makes them vulnerable to radical ideas. Read more here
On demonetisation and GST:
Decisions like demonetisation were taken in an unilateral manner, without asking Chief Economic Advisor and Parliament. This has caused huge damage to the Indian economy and GDP. Millions of jobs were wiped out because of the overnight cash ban. GST, another economic policy taken by the government has put tremendous pressure on the economy.
On the future of the Congress Party:
Congress as a party believes in having a conversation and discussion. Most of my work is sitting in a room, listening to people. I collect that information and come out with a solution that makes everyone happy. The party decides policy and vision through conversations and not by imposition. However, in 2012, a certain arrogance crept into the party and we stopped having a conversation. For rebuilding the party, we need to design a vision that we can use moving forward. Most of what the BJP is doing right now, like MNREGA and GST is what we once said.
On dynasty politics and criticism:
Actually most parties in India havethat problem. So don’t give us stick because Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast. Stalin is a dynast. (Prem Kumar) Dhumal’s son is a dynast….Even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast. That is how India runs. Don’t get after me because that is how the entire country is running. By the way last I recall Ambani’s kids were running their business and that was also going in Infosys. That is what happens in India. But saying that, I do try to sort of change it in the Congress…if you look at the Congress there is a large number of people who are not from dynastic families at all….I can name them in every state.I am absolutely ready to take up the executive role, but our party works according to organisational elections. I believe that young people should be pushed forward. But there’s also tremendous talent in the party among the senior people. It’s a mix, it’s trying to make both systems work together. People need to realise that here is a tremendous machine, thousand people or so, and all they do is spread rumours about me. The operation is run by the gentleman running our country.
On Kashmir and terrorism:
For nine years, I worked behind the scenes with PM Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and others on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. When we were in power, terrorism was rampant in the valley. By 2013, we basically broke the back of terror and there was peace in the state. I hugged the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying it was one of the biggest achievements. PDP was instrumental in bringing youngsters in politics, but the day it made alliance with BJP, PM Modi destroyed the party. Prime Minister massively opened up space for the terrorists in Kashmir, and you saw the increase in violence.
On Prime Minister Modi:
PM Modi has good communication skills. He knows how to spread his message to several groups in a crowd. I’m an Opposition leader, but Mr Modi is also my Prime Minister. He’s a very good communicator, probably much better than me… but what I sense is that he doesn’t converse with people he works with. This has been told to me even by the BJP party members.
One of the things that we did was the Right to Information. And what RTI did was that it massively increased transparency. So a lot of the problem that we faced was actually because of a massive increase in transparency that we created which by the way Modi has shut down. PM Modi clamped down on the RTI ..so the amount of information which was flying around during our time is simply not flying around. So one reason we got into quite a lot of trouble was because we dramatically increased the amount of transparency. Corruption happens because of arbitrary centralised power….you have to crack arbitrary centralised power…you have to decentralise power…..unless you decentralise power, you have not going to take on corruption.