On Monday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi promised a “brand new Congress” in the months to come. He said there would be “dramatic changes” in the Congress party, particularly among the leaders who head its state units.
Gandhi, currently on a visit to Bahrain, his first visit abroad after taking over as the Congress chief, told a gathering of non-resident Indians (NRIs) that his party committed mistakes, as did he. “What we have to do now is to present a new Congress party, something that you can believe in and trust,” he said, addressing an event organised by the Global Organisation of People of India Origin, or GOPIO. He said state units of the Congress party would soon be headed by leaders that people can trust.
To a question on whether politics in India would get updated, just as an app is in the digital world, Gandhi said: “You give us six months. We will update it (Indian politics).” The Congress chief, however, disagreed that there was a “gap” between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He said this “gap” existed in the “media”, and was because of one-sided propaganda. “The Congress is fighting on the ground. Gujarat was BJP’s fortress, but it escaped (a defeat) by the skin of its teeth,” Gandhi said. He said the challenge before the Congress was to improve itself and to present before India a “new vision”. “If we are successful in shaping a ‘new Congress’ defeating the BJP wouldn’t be a difficult task,” he said.
The Congress President also sought help of the Indian diaspora to “fight the forces of hatred and anger” and “to protect the idea of India that we so dearly love and cherish”. He said the diaspora contributed 3.2 per cent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). Gandhi said the Congress vision of India believed in building bridges between peoples and communities, was compassionate and also tried and tested, with strong roots in the NRI community as some of its greatest leaders were all NRIs, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and BR Ambedkar.
The Congress chief identified lack of job growth as the most serious concern facing the country and its youth. He said job creation was at an 8-year low, new investments at a 13-year low and bank credit growth at a 60-year low. Gandhi said many in the Indian diaspora have lost their hard earned money because of arbitrary decisions like demonetisation, which dealt a crippling blow to the Indian economy. Earlier, GOPIO chairman Thomas Abraham said Overseas Citizens of India and People of Indian Origin have as much as Rs 100 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) still lying with them, and the organisation has appealed to the government but there is no resolution.
Gandhi said 30,000 new youngsters entered the job market in India every day. He said the failure to provide jobs is resulting in immense anger and unrest in India. He said it was “tragic” that instead of focusing on poverty alleviation and providing jobs, the current government was busy converting the fear among jobless youths into hatred between communities. Gandhi said that in today’s India the talk has turned to what people eat, whether they can protest or say what they want to, where activists and journalist are being threatened and shot, and judges investigating cases die in mysterious circumstances.
Without mentioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi even once in his brief speech and the subsequent question and answer session, the Congress chief faulted the intent of the current government as it remains silent when there is violence or people are threatened. “There should not be silence. The Government of India must make its position clear,” he said.
A Congress government, Gandhi said, will put creation of jobs for youth uppermost in its agenda. He said jobs can be created through small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Gandhi said there was also a need to reform India’s education system and his party also has a strategy to improve healthcare. He said a Congress government would ensure the passage of the women’s reservation Bill to give representation to women in Parliament and state legislatures.
Gandhi and Sam Pitroda, who heads the Overseas Indian Congress, said they would soon be visiting Canada and Singapore, and another visit to West Asia was also in the works.
In September 2017, Gandhi had visited the United States and interacted with students at the UC Berkeley, which had come for much praise.