Rahul Gandhi’s US address: The triumph of truth at Berkeley

Rahul’s candid admission that the Congress, in it’s second-term, allowed a false sense of invulnerability leading to political hubris is refreshingly honest. He is aware of his dynastic baggage on which he is perpetually questioned. But as he has also said, the headstart does not guarantee assured triumphs.

Written by Sanjay Jha | Updated: September 12, 2017 7:24 pm
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To understand the meaning, it is crucial to comprehend the context. Just one gruesome incident encapsulates India’s gargantuan challenge to be a thriving democracy. Last week, a respected feisty editor of a Karnataka daily, renowned for her sustained campaign against Hindutva bigotry and superstitious beliefs was slaughtered in cold-blood, shot multiple times at point-blank range in Bengaluru. Hours later, the vitriolic troll army of right-wing fundamentalists were treating her murder as just dessert. These are the same online hoodlums who wax eloquent on Indian culture, character and traditions, but indulge in character assassination of women journalists, and treat opposing voices as anti-national.

This is what Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, addressing young students on “India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward” at the University of Berkeley, California, was alluding to when he said he feared that the idea of non-violence was under attack. Rahul’s repeated assertions that the dangerous cocktail of hatred, anger and polarization is destroying India’s social fabric is becoming a reality. Religious extremism has been steadily mainstreamed since prime minister Narendra Modi assumed charge three and a half years ago. We are playing with fire. Everyone could get burnt.

In the corporate universe, it is often said that companies inevitably exhibit the characteristics of their Chief Executive Officer. It isn’t so different for the country, either. Rahul’s allegation that there exists a powerful machine in divisive overdrive and that the formidable army of social media storm-troopers have been set up by the BJP is no exaggeration. Mr Modi follows some of these people, who are constantly peddling inflammatory content and intimidating many. Certainly, this messaging isn’t subtle at all.

From 2004-12, when the Congress-led UPA was in the saddle, India lifted as many as 140 million people out of poverty. Alongside, India registered phenomenal GDP growth rates peaking at 9.6%, and averaging 7.6% over a 10-year period. This must rank as one of the most outstanding achievements of any post-Independence government in India. As Rahul correctly stated, the Modi Sarkar is obsessed with the crème de la crème of Big Business; hence, his friendship with corporate czars, especially those in the natural resources-based commodities business. This crony capitalism prompted the Congress vice-president to label it ‘Suit Boot Ki Sarkar.’ But with the economic outlook looking grim, Modi made an about turn and quickly began to sing hosannas about MNREGA, GST, Direct Benefits Transfer, Aadhaar, and food security.

Rahul today stands vindicated on India’s economic challenges and social inequalities; there is no alternative to Congress’s “ inclusive growth model”. Free-market fundamentalists whom Modi publicly courted, such as Columbia professor Arvind Panagriya, have already called it quits. The one original decision of Modi, demonetization, has turned out to be a daylight fraud perpetrated on the people of India. India‘s GDP has crashed by over 200 basis points, pointing towards a near medium-term economic catastrophe.

Rahul’s candid admission that the Congress, in it’s second-term (2009-14), allowed a false sense of invulnerability leading to political hubris is refreshingly honest. Several professionals, like member of Parliament, Prof Rajeev Gowda and myself, moved laterally into the Congress party, long before the Aam Admi Party opened its doors to people like us. While certain political experiments such as US-style primaries have still not been executed, Rahul’s efforts to make internal systems transparent continue.

Rahul is the original outlier of Indian politics, not Arvind Kejriwal. He is aware of his dynastic baggage on which he is perpetually questioned. But as he has also said, the headstart does not guarantee assured triumphs.

Rahul Gandhi has experienced devastating tragedies at a susceptible age that can leave deep scars. But he has the resilience of a long-distance runner and draws emotional strength from the personal losses of his grandmother and father, who he knew was always within an assassin’s range. Hence, his statement, non-violence is hard work and not for the timid. The killers of Gauri Lankesh and those who ruthlessly masterminded it were cowards… If I don’t understand violence, who will? he said.

Lankesh is dead, as are Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar. But as we all fight to keep the idea of India alive, Rahul Gandhi in Berkeley this morning reminded us that he will never allow us to forget it.

Sanjay Jha is national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress party. He tweets @JhaSanjay

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    Insaan
    Sep 15, 2017 at 6:11 pm
    An improvised bomb explodes on packed London commuter train today, injuring 22, and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said people should "keep calm" and continue their lives as normal. Why, I wonder, when the 1885-born Indian National Congress had been “bombing” the nation with their mediocre and inept administration through corruption (corruption is the language that kept us united across the nation!) for almost seven decades, why can’t we “keep calm” and let the nationalist government led by PM Narendra Modi mend the damage. Sanjay Jha, shut-up now and forever.
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      Insaan
      Sep 15, 2017 at 8:10 pm
      संजय झा, जब कि युगपुरुष नरेन्द्र मोदी भारत के पुनर्निर्माण हेतु उचित कार्य-व्यवस्था में लगे हुए हैं अब तक दशकों से भ्रष्टाचार व अराजकता-पूर्ण भारतीय वातावरण के चलते तुमने अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता की आड़ में विवाद-ग्रस्त लेख लिख मेरे मन को बहुत दुखी किया है| मेरे मन में इस व्यक्ति के लिए घृणा और बद्दुआ होने पर भी मैं यहाँ सामान्य शिष्टाचार की मांग के कारण व यहाँ टिप्पणियों पर नियम एवं शर्तों का उल्लंघन न कर संजय झा को गाली नहीं दे पा रहा हूँ| इस धूर्त ने अपनी आत्मा बेच खाई है|
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    2. K
      Kris
      Sep 14, 2017 at 2:21 pm
      Hi Sanjay Jha, except a few family sycophants like you, no one in India wants to see Rahul Gandhi leading the nation. Unlike Rahul Gandhi, who has neither the intelligence, capability nor does he know about India, Modi is a proven administrator whose knowledge about India's problems and the solutions to solve these problems is far greater. May be it will take some time to solve these as you guys have ruined our country for the past over 6 decades. You better leave Rahul Gandhi alone and do not try thrust his incapable leadership on the people. When an incapable person leads the nation it is the corrupt and anti nationals in the form of Congress and other family political parties, certain journalists and NGOs who make most out of it. The sycophants like you and certain journalists, who criticize this government, are looking for this opportunity in Rahul Gandhi's leadership. For you personal interest is more important than national importance and your hard sell of Rahul will not succeed
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        R.K. Ghanekar
        Sep 14, 2017 at 1:19 pm
        A great sycophant has spoken! Pathetic! Do these people have no sense of shame or self-respect?
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          Giri
          Sep 14, 2017 at 12:50 pm
          OH, here is yet another "vandhimagadha", a paid court flatterer at work! Shameless, imbecile!
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            George Cruz
            Sep 14, 2017 at 7:45 am
            The congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is an illiterate, foreign born, don't know or care to know India's history/culture other than looting India's wealth, and the Indian citizens have overwhelmingly rejected him and now spewing his venom by demonizing the BJP/RSS as well as conspiring with China/Pak to destabilize India.
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