Even as he continued to take pot shots at the Prime Minister, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday insisted
that he only had love for Narendra Modi, and no hatred, but the same was not true of the other side.
“I love Mr Narendra Modi. I genuinely have no hatred towards the man at all,” he said at an interaction with students during a short visit to the city. His remarks immediately triggered chants of ‘Modi, Modi’ from the audience, but Rahul said he didn’t mind.
“I am okay. I have no problem with it. I have no anger or hatred towards Mr Modi. But there is a difference. He doesn’t feel the same about me. He has anger towards me,” said Rahul.
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Last year, after delivering a speech in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi, in a dramatic gesture, had walked up to the Treasury Benches and surprised Modi by hugging him. At that time too, he had said that he had no hatred for Modi at a personal level.
Rahul, who was in the city for a short stopover, however, continued to attack the Prime Minister and his policies. “I am in public here to answer questions. Why does the Prime Minister not stand in an open function like this?
It’s about (having) an attitude,” he said.
“People should speak and make me uncomfortable. I may or may not like some questions, but I am there to answer them. I will be happy to go back and think about the good questions being raised, while looking for answers,” he said.
The audience put several questions to him during the one-hour interaction, including the Congress party’s stand on the Pulwama terror attack, the proposed NYAY scheme, and his party’s manifesto. There were also personal questions about his family, his relationship with his sister Priyanka Gandhi, and the personal tragedies that he has faced, such as the assassinations of his grandmother and father.
On the question of claiming credit for the air strikes on Pakistan following the Pulwama attack, Rahul said the credit truly belonged to the Indian Air Force. “It is important for people to know that they can’t mess around (with India). There has to be a cost that those carrying out such attacks (like Pulwama) need to pay,” he said, but stressed that the Congress party was totally against the politicisation of the air strikes.
Responding to a question about the financial viability of NYAY, or minimum income guarantee scheme, Rahul said there was enough money “in the system” to fund the scheme. “There is plenty of money in the system. There is no shortage of money in the system. The idea for the NYAY scheme has come after conversations with thousands of people, including students, farmers and other stakeholders. The Rs 72,000 minimum income scheme has not come from the party, but from the people of India,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe in making false promises and that he would ensure that the entire manifesto of the Congress party was implemented if it was voted to power.
Asked about the unemployment situation, Rahul claimed that 27,000 jobs were being lost every day because of faulty policies of the government, while China was creating more jobs.
In this context, he said the impacts of demonetisation were still being felt. “Notebandi or demonetisation was very unfortunate. It was a disastrous idea. Two per cent of GDP was lost. Millions of jobs were lost. The damage has already been done. It is like an injury. We will have to carry it,” he said.
He said there was a plan in place for imparting skills to youths that would provide employment. “Our university system is not linked to the corporate system for jobs. Congress wants to create a bridge between the education and business sectors,” he said.
The Congress president also said that his party was committed to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the state assemblies.
‘We will make reservation for women a reality after coming to power. In fact, we want 33 per cent reservation for women in jobs at the national level. Women need to be given space in everything,” said Rahul.