NEW DELHI: The Congress came out in defence of party vice president Rahul Gandhi after his comments riled the government, which described him as a failed politician.
“The politics of hate divides and polarizes India, making millions of people feel that they have no future in their own country. In today's connected world, this is extremely dangerous. It isolates people and makes them vulnerable to radical ideas,” Rahul said while delivering a speech on the topic “India at 70” at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US.
The transcript of the speech was released to the media by the Congress party. Gandhi is visiting the US for two weeks and is scheduled to interact with several think tanks.
Expressing concern that liberal journalists were being shot and lynchings were happening either due to the victims being a Dalit or a Muslim suspect of eating beef, Rahul said such incidents were damaging the country.
Noting the government’s key economic decisions like demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax had hurt economic growth, the Gandhi-family scion pointed out that while the youth were struggling with joblessness, the government was not doing enough.
“The decline in economic growth today is worrying and its leading to an upsurge of anger in the country. Ignoring India's tremendous institutional knowledge and taking ad hoc decisions is reckless and dangerous,” Rahul said, adding “the government was creating only 500 jobs against a demand of 30,000 per day.”
Listing the positives since 1947, when India became Independent, the Congress vice president praised the country’s unity in diversity, war against poverty, developing world-class technical institutions and its time-tested values like non-violence and parliamentary democracy.
Rahul’s speech invited strong reactions from the centre and the ruling BJP, which dubbed him a “failed” leader and attacked him for criticising the country and the government on foreign soil.
“It is wrong to accuse Rahul Gandhi of having said anything which is belittling. It is the present Prime Minister who is guilty of insulting India on foreign soil. Prime Minister had called the country corrupt on his first foreign visit,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
Sharma defended the BJP’s charge that Rahul enjoyed his position as he belonged to the Nehru-Gandhi family and not due to his achievements.
However, during a question and answer session later, the Congress vice president embarrassed his party by expressing solidarity with the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, an incident which always exposes the soft-underbelly of the Grand Old Party.
“Former PM Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, has apologised for the incident,” said a senior AICC functionary while defending Rahul’s remarks.