BHUBANESHWAR: All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Rahul Gandhi lambasted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for believing in bureaucratic dictatorship and centralisation of power.
Delivering a Town Hall talk here on Friday, Gandhi said there is a connection between Modi and Patnaik. Modi has leverage over Patnaik because of corruption cases and the later tacitly supports Modi throughout various issues including GST, demonetisation and different bills in the parliament, he said.
"The Biju Janata Dal's model to develop the Odisha is similar to the BJP's Gujarat model. Patnaik is a version of Modi. My target is to take Odisha out of the one-man bureaucratic regime and hand it over to the people of the State," the Gandhi scion said.
Though Patnaik is autocratic and centralises power, the AICC chief said, he is not as hate-filled as Modi. Unlike the Congress, which has a dynamic process and always listens to people, Modi thinks he knows everything, and hence, there is no scope for feedback with him in power.
"This is the basic difference between the Congress and BJP. When we run a State, we listen to the people. That is not how Modi or Patnaik thinks," he said. Coming down heavily on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Gandhi said, the outfit wants to control all the institutions in the country. RSS is the mother-ship of the BJP, which believes it as the only institution and wants to systematically penetrate into all other institutions.
"The Congress always respects the institutions, be it judiciary, election commission or education system and their individuality. We believe that institutions should be independent and India should be run by its 1.2 billion people. We are completely against the assault on institutions taking place nowadays. We will not allow it. We have to do a lot of repair work, because whatever has been done to the country in the last five years is actually devastating," he said.
The Congress party chief criticised Modi for failing to understand the intent behind Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which created an economic structure in rural India and transformed millions of people.
"MGNREGA is a labour market correction. It was fantastic move that allowed India for the first time in history to have minimum wage. It not only helped the poor, it supported a large number of manufacturers who supplied goods to the buyers. It was a comprehensive strategic move, which paid huge dividends," he pointed out.
Laying out a vision for the Indian economy, Gandhi emphasised on job creation over the growth of the economy. China has outpaced India in job creation. Modi has failed to deliver on his various promises. What is the meaning of growth when youth struggle to get into jobs, he asked.
"Every State in the country has a job crisis. When automation is a problem in Europe and India, it has no impact on China, which is producing 50,000 new jobs every 24 hours. India produces only 450 jobs in the same period. Production today has been completely dominated by China. India has to focus on producing things. In fact, it is the only country which can take over others, " he said and called for a revival of the manufacturing sector and for easy access to credit for small and medium businesses.
Gandhi said the businessmen in the country have a complete capture of the banking system. Around Rs 12.50 lakh crore is in the hands of 30-40 businessmen. Vijay Mallya can run away with Rs 9,000 crore. Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi can run away with Rs 30,000 crore and Ambani can be given as much. But If you are a small or mid-sized businessman, you deal with demonetisation and GST and you are not forgiven your loans, he said.
Alleging that demonetisation is a crime and massacre of small and medium businesses, he said, small and medium enterprises generate jobs, not the large business houses. Everybody is forgetting agriculture. A huge number of jobs can come from agriculture if there is a transformation in the system, he said. On abuses by the BJP, the Congress party chief said the best thing that happened to his as a politician and human being is the abuse he got from BJP and RSS.
"It has been the biggest gift they could give me. When Modi abuses me, I feel like giving him a hug. He is upset with the Congress party. But we have no animosity towards him. That's our nature, we don't hate people. India's culture is not to abuse someone," he added. Gandhi predicted that the opposition will win the 2019 elections. There are two things in Indian politics that are absolutely fickle. One is when the people start to believe that the person in power does not listen or respect their view. Secondly, when there is complete opposition unity. Now we are at a point when the opposition is so united that it is practically impossible for BJP to win the election, he observed.