Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi on Saturday led a Congress attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, accusing them of dividing the country in the name of religion, and destroying the India growth story. Rahul said “patriot Modi” had done what the nation’s enemies had always wished for.
Modi and “his assistant” Amit Shah should apologise to the country for wrecking the economy, Rahul told a rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. The world, he said, admired India’s 9% GDP growth, but Modi had “single-handedly” destroyed it through demonetisation and a faulty GST, pushing unemployment to a 45-year high, and pulling down growth to 4.5%.
In fact, GDP growth, if measured using the old method, would be just 2.5%, Rahul said. “India’s enemies… always wanted our economy, which is our strength, to crumble. That has now been done, not by our enemies but by our Prime Minister. And he calls himself a deshbhakt… all the money has been given to a handful of industrialists; only a handful, not all.”
Rahul named Adani, whom “Modi has given 50 contracts worth over Rs 1 lakh crore in the last five years”, and asked the large crowd if they wouldn’t call it “theft or corruption”. Also, he said, “Some days ago, debt to the tune of Rs 1.4 lakh crore of 15-20 people were waived.”
India had elected Modi to strengthen its economy and create jobs for its youth, but he had only “pit one religion against another”, Rahul said. “In Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast… see what is happening in Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh… Modi has set off fires in these states. He divides the country and weakens it… Modi thinks about only one thing… he will do anything for power… marketing honi chahiye Narendra Modi ki (he only wants to be marketed well)… he wants to be seen on TV every day.”
Rahul also said he would never apologise for his “Rape in India” jibe on Friday. He was not Savarkar, the former Congress president said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi exhorted people to come out of their homes and start an agitation. “In the life of an individual, society and country, once in a while a time comes when you have take a decision on whether you are on this side or that… that time has come now; if the country is to be saved, we will have to wage an arduous struggle,” she said.
“Aaj to andher nagri chaupat raja jaisa mahaul hai… the entire country is asking where is sabka saath, sabka vikas; where are the jobs, why is the economy in the doldrums?” Sonia said.
“They are tearing apart the Constitution. The CAB (new citizenship Act) will rip India’s soul to shreds… like what is happening in Assam and other Northeastern states. But Modi and Shah don’t care; their government does not care about Parliament or constitutional institutions… Modi-Shah have only aim: their politics and their only narrow agenda is to pit people against each other and obfuscate the real issues,” she said.
The rally was also addressed by Priyanka Vadra, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, and Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan, Kamal Nath of Madhya Pradesh, and Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was not present.
The three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family spoke for nearly 45 minutes of the 110-minute event, and got the loudest cheers from the crowd. A dozen other speakers spoke for the other 65 minutes.
Chidambaram said the government had reduced India to “one of the struggling economies of the world”, and alleged that its Ministers were “completely clueless”. “Yesterday the Finance Minister said everything is all right and we are on top of the world. The only thing she didn’t say was achchhe din aane wale hain,” Chidambaram said.
Even after coercing the RBI to part with Rs 1.75 lakh crore from its reserves, the government has no money, Chidambaram said. “They will raise taxes. Mark my words, they will raise the GST. They will raise other taxes, which fall on the poor and the economy will sink even further.”
The world, he said, would not stay impassive to political and economic instability, and anti-people policies. “The world will not keep quiet… Today, the US, the European Union, Japan, and even Bangladesh is telling us, ‘what are you doing?’ The US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee condemns us, the European Union warns us, the UN Human Rights Commission warns us… what you have done is completely opposite of the democratic tenets of the world. Today, India is suspect in the eyes of the world. India’s economy is broken, India’s polity is broken, and India’s leadership has completely failed us,” Chidambaram said.
Manmohan Singh said Modi had promised people that he would take the country’s GDP to 5 trillion dollars. “He had assured farmers that their income will be doubled in five years. He had promised the youth that he will create 2 crore jobs for them every year. All these promises have turned out to be false… they were made to mislead the people,” he said.
Entry to Ramlila Maidan was barred around 12.15 pm, and many supporters were forced to stand outside. NSUI workers in T-shirts that said “Modi hai to mandi hai” (‘If there is Modi, there is slowdown’) waved the Tricolour and shouted slogans.
“Berozgaaron ki chai le lo, koi to le lo… (Someone please buy tea from the unemployed),” 30-year-old Monty Shukla was calling out. Shukla, who had come with his friends, said he had an LLB from Bundelkhand University, but no income.