Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday addressed the University of California, Berkeley, at 7 am (IST). Speaking on ‘India at 70’, Gandhi reflected on contemporary India and the path forward for the world’s largest democracy. His great grandfather and the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had delivered a historic speech at the American university in 1949.
Gandhi, who is on a two-week visit to the US to interact with global thinkers, political leaders and overseas Indians, spoke on the political environment in the country, job creation, the Congress party, the effects of demonetisation among other issues.
Follow Rahul Gandhi’s UC Berkeley speech LIVE updates here:
11.39 am: Ünion Minister Jitendra Singh reacts as well. He is quoted as saying by ANI, “On the contrary, absence of peace in Kashmir was cumulative of Congress misrule in the Centre and in the state for decades.”
11.38 am: Reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Kashmur, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said, “The problems in Kashmir are due to decades of Congress misrule and due to (Rahul) grandfather’s policies. He must read up,” reported ANI.
11.33 am: Watch Rahul Gandhi’s speech here.
8.54 am: Following his speech, Rahul Gandhi is tweeting some sections of his speech. He had initially spoken about ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence.
The idea of ahimsa unites India’s castes, religions &languages. An idea that Gandhi fashioned into a powerful but beautiful political weapon
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) September 12, 2017
8.37 am: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who was present in the audience during Gandhi’s speech tweets, “A speech marked by acuity and passion, and a discussion infused with candour and insight #RGinUS @UCBerkeley.”
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 12, 2017
8.34 am: The event has concluded.
8.28 am: During the Q&A session, there was a disruption from a student, Sobia Kaur Chahal. She raised the question, “Why are certain politicians like Kamal Nath, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar being shielded by the Congress party?” However, this went unanswered by Gandhi.
8.26 am: Gandhi says he agrees with the government’s basic idea on foreign policy, but he says India should not be isolated. “The UPA’s design was to have relations with people around India, like the US, Russia and Iran,” Gandhi says. The current balance is making India vulnerable, he adds
8.23 am: He adds that he likes the concept of Make in India, but would change the orientation of the scheme. My orientation would be small and medium businesses and bring in experts to transform them into global companies. On Swachh Bharat, he says the idea of hygiene is good.
8.14 am: “Mr Modi is also my Prime Minister. He has certain skills; he’s a very good communicator and understands how to deliver a message to three or four groups in a crowd; his messaging ability is very subtle. What I sense is that he doesn’t converse with the people he works with — I’ve heard this from parliamentarians,” says Gandhi.
8.13 am: In 2014, the government inflicted a huge strategic cost on India by forming an alliance with PDP destroyed the latter’s ability to bring youth into politics. When this happened, I heard that largest numbers of the PDP went towards militancy, Gandhi says.
8.12 am: On Kashmir, he says the UPA II government had in 2013 “broken the back of terrorism”. He says it was done by holding Panchayati Raj elections, women self-helf groups and giving young people from J&K employment and building their confidence. “When we started terrorism was rampant in Kashmir but when we finished there was peace,”he adds.
8.10 am: “Administrative reform is important, but much more important is political reform. The real problem in India is that our political machinery — Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha etc — is not empowered like they should be,” he says. “We need to make sure our parlimentarians are involved in the conversation again.
8.06 am: On being a ‘reluctant’ politician, he says it’s a perspective from BJP followers “sitting on machines”. “Realise, that there 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,” says Gandhi.
8.05 am: “The BJP gives a top-down vision, we construct a bottom-up vision,” says Gandhi.
8.00 am: On moving away from the Congress’ ‘dynastic’ system, Gandhi says his earlier approach was that one should push young people. “I still believe that young people should be pushed forward. But there’s tremendous talant in the party among the senior people. It’s a mix, it’s trying to make both systems work together.”
— Manoj C G (@manojcg4u) September 12, 2017
7.58 am: Anyone who is interested in joining politics, but not through the elected system, can talk to Shashi Tharoor, says Gandhi, pointing to Tharoor who is sitting in the audience. He also names Pitroda.
7.54 am: “PM Modi has clamped down on the Right to Information. The amount of information and transparency flying around in our time, is not there anymore,” says Gandhi.
7.48 am: “In 2012, a certain arrogance crept into the party and we stopped having a conversation. Rebuilding the party, we need to design a vision that we can use moving forward. Most of what the BJP is doing, is what we once said,” Gandhi says. He cites MNREGA and GST.
“The central architechture of the BJP’s schemes are ours,” he adds.
7.46 am: On the Congress, he says, is a ‘conversation’. “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 way we design a vision by having a conversation.”
7.43 am: “I’ve lost my grandmother, my father. If I don’t understand violence, I’ll be ignorant.” Gandhi asks.
7.40 am: “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,” says RG in the Q&A session. On the Sikh community, he says, “I absolutely love the community. If there’s anything I can do to help them get justice… I’ll be the first person to do so.” Read more here.
7.40 am: On demonetisation, he said the decision was carried out unilaterally. Millions of jobs were wiped out because of the cash ban, he adds. Demonetisation cause approximately 2 per cent loss of the GDP, he says.
7.39: The politics of polarisation has raised its ugly head in India today, says Gandhi. “This is dangerous as it isolates people and makes them vulnerable to radical ideas.”
7.24 am: On healthcare, Gandhi says India’s size will give it an advantage in the field because of its rich genetic diversity.
7.32 am: The central challenge for India is jobs, he says, adding that roughly 12 million youth enter the job market annually. “Unlike China, we have to create jobs in a democratic environment,” he says. “Jobs in India will come from small and medium scale industries. However, currently, all the attention is paid to the top 100 companies.”
7.30: There’s no democratic country in human history which has lift so many people out of poverty, says RG. Reiterating, he says, this was done without violence.
7.27 am: Gandhi speaks on ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence, once propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. “Using violence against a person, who is infected by an idea, actually ensures the idea spreads further,” Gandhi says.
7.25 am: “India is a complex country. Everytime you try to understand India, is a fool,” says Gandhi. “We have 29 states, convering every religion in the world. We have 17 official languages and hundreds of dialects. We have different terrains too. Most experts didn’t expect India to survive; they predicted it will be torn apart. But India came out standing straight and tall.”
7.19 am: Gandhi begins by paying homage to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
7.16 am: Rahul Gandhi has arrived at the venue. A professor of Berkeley and the co-moderator of the event says he expects a rhobust political debate today. He will address the event first after which there will be a moderated Q&A session.
7.15 am: It has just been announced that Gandhi will be arriving shortly. Meanwhile, the news that Gandhi will speak on artificial intelligence is incorrect.
7.13 am: Sikh protesters have gathered outside the campus. To counter the protest outside, there may be a Sikh speaker today.
7.10 am: Ahead of his speech, the audience — primarily of Indian origin — inside the packed auditorium, is quite curious about what steps Gandhi and the Congress have taken towards India’s progress till date.
(With inputs from Sharmila Nair at UC Berkley and agencies)