Updated: February 4, 2021 4:22:02 am
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Wednesday said India’s reputation has taken a “massive hit” because of the way the Centre is treating farmers and journalists. He said that the country’s “biggest strength”, soft power, has been shattered by the BJP and the RSS.
During a press conference in New Delhi, Gandhi refused to be drawn into the controversy around international pop star Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg’s support to the farmers’ protest, and the External Affairs Ministry’s response to them. He said he has no opinion on the issue, that it was India’s “internal matter”, and an issue related to the farmers.
Referring to the heavy barricading at the protest sites, Gandhi asked why the national capital was being turned into a “fortress” and why the government was not speaking to the farmers to resolve the farm law issue. “The Prime Minister is saying that the offer is still on the table to postpone these laws for two years. What does that mean? Either you believe that you need to get rid of the laws or you don’t,” Gandhi said. He said the farmers are not going to go back and the government will have to capitulate in the end.
“What is this one phone call away? What does that mean? Are they seeking to talk to the Prime Minister? Their demand is withdrawal of these laws,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told an all-party meeting last week that the government’s offer to keep the implementation of the three farm laws on hold for 18 months is still on the table. He had said that Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is just a phone call away for taking forward talks.
Asked whether he thinks India’s international image has taken a beating, Gandhi said: “Absolutely. The reputation of India has taken a massive hit. Not only on how we are treating our farmers, on how we treat our own people, how we treat journalists, it has taken a massive hit. Our biggest strength, you can call it soft power, has been shattered by the BJP and the RSS.”
“The governance of this country, they are basically unable to handle it and their incompetence is now coming to the fore. They have messed up the economy, they have messed up the harmony, they have messed up the defence and they want to keep distracting India with non-events.”
On the Union Budget, Gandhi said the Prime Minister should put money into the hands of the people, protect small and medium businesses and send a clear message to China that “you cannot be sitting inside our land and expect that nothing is going to happen.”
“This country is lacking leadership. There is no leadership in this country anymore. There is just talk, there is no understanding, there is no strategy. The thing has come apart. Now, of course, what is there, is a media that is controlled. So the reality of what is going on is not coming out. But, believe me that maya (illusion) is going to break,” he said.
“Your job is not to sell this country to one per cent of the population. Your job is to protect the kisans, who are standing outside. Go hold their hands, give them a hug and tell them what is it that I can do for you? Your job is to make sure that small and medium businesses can compete with China…,” he added.
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