Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has said he is keen to take up the role of the president of his party but also indicated a rapprochement has been reached between the party’s old guard and the crop of younger leaders that he has backed to take up key organisational posts. The party is in the process of holding its organisational elections, which is likely to culminate in October.
Gandhi spoke at length about his vision for India, critiqued the policies of the Narendra Modi
government and fielded questions on dynastic rule, the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 and the corruption during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II rule at an interaction with students and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, in the US
Responding to a question if he wanted to take up an executive role in the Congress
Party, he said, “I am absolutely ready to do that.” The Congress
Vice President, however, said the party has “an organisational election process that decides that.” “And that process is currently ongoing. So we have an internal system where we elect certain delegates who make that decision. So for me to say that that decision is mine that wouldn't be very fair.”
He said joblessness, farm distress and 2 per cent drop in gross domestic product fueled by the policies of the Narendra Modi
government, particularly demonetisation and hurried roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST) regime, were serious problems confronting India. Gandhi said 30,000 youth join the job market
every day, but the government is creating a meagre 500 jobs
“The decline in economic growth today is worrying and it's leading to an upsurge of anger in the country,” he said. Gandhi said roughly 12 million young people enter the Indian job market
every year. He said India is a democratic country and does not have and nor does it want China's coercive instruments. “We cannot follow their model of massive factories controlled by fear,” he said.
leader said jobs
in India are going to come instead from small and medium-scale industries. India needs to turn a colossal number of small and medium businesses into international companies, he said. “Currently, all the attention in India is paid to the top 100 companies. Everything is geared towards them. Banking systems are monopolised by them, the doors of government are always open to them and laws are shaped by them,” he said. He said the jobless were the core constituency of the rise of right-wing leaders the world over
vice-president said dynastic succession was the norm in India, whether in politics
or other professions. He said there were a large number of people in the Congress
that were non-dynasts, and there were also those like him who had their father, grandmother and great grandfather in politics.
"The real question is whether the person actually a capable and a sensitive person," Gandhi said.
A few hours later, Union minister Smriti Irani, who had contested against Gandhi from Amethi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, held a press conference in New Delhi to describe the 47-year-old Congress
leader a “failed dynast” and a failed politician.
leader said the “central architecture” of much of what the Modi government has implemented since 2014 had been borrowed from the Congress-led UPA governments. Gandhi, however, said architecture doesn’t work anymore and that it had stopped working by 2012. "The vision that we laid out in 2004 was designed at best for a 10-year period. And, it was pretty clear that the vision that we laid out in 2004, by the time we arrived in 2012 was not working anymore," he said.
Gandhi said the Congress, unlike the BJP’s centralised structure of decision-making, is about having a conversation with people and leadership. “Somewhere around 2012, and I say this, a certain arrogance crept into the Congress
party. And, they stopped having that conversation."
vice-president criticised the PM’s foreign policy. He said he supported India’s close bonds with the US, but not at the expense of isolating India as that can get dangerous. He highlighted the growing influence of China
in India’s immediate neighbourhood.
On his economic vision, Gandhi said “hatred, anger and violence and the politics
of polarisation, which has raised its ugly head in India today” threatens to undo the successes that the country has achieved in the past 70 years, including pulling over 350 million people out of poverty.
vice-president said he had changed his earlier approach of pushing the younger leaders regardless, but said there is tremendous talent among the senior people and a mix of young and the old was the way forward for the party.