WEB DESK /New Delhi
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday attacked Prime Minister Narendra modi and the NDA Government for demonetisation and ‘hastily-applied GST’ that he said had caused tremendous damage to the India economy. Addressing the students of the University of California in Berkeley on ‘India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward’, Mr Gandhi expressed concern over politics of hate and polarisation raising its ugly head in India , as reflected in incidents like Liberal journalists being shot, people being lynched because they are Dalits and Muslims killed on suspicion of eating beef .
Attacking the NDA Government for its economic policies, Mr Gandhi said,’ The government’s economic policies, demonetisation and hastily-applied GST have caused tremendous damage. Decisions like demonetisation, which removed 86 per cent of cash from circulation overnight and was carried out unilaterally without asking the Chief Economic Advisor, the Cabinet or even Parliament, imposes a devastating cost in India. Millions of small businesses were simply wiped out as a result of demonetisation.
Farmers and manual labourers who use cash were hit extremely hard. Agriculture is in deep distress and farmer suicides have sky rocketed across the country. ‘Demonetisation, a completely self-inflicted wound, caused approximately 2 per cent loss in India’s GDP. India cannot afford to grow and create jobs at the current rate. If we continue at the current rate, if India cannot give the millions of people entering the job market employment, anger will increase and it has the potential to derail what is being built so far. That will be catastrophic for India and the world beyond it. ‘ Expressing concern over politics of hate and polarisation raising its ugly head in India, Mr Gandhi said, ‘Violence and hatred distract people from the task at hand. Liberal journalists being shot, people being lynched because they are Dalits, Muslims killed on suspicion of eating beef – this is new in India and damages India very badly. The politics of hate divides and polarises 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.’
Accusing the BJP led government at the Centre of destroying peace in the Kashmir valley, Mr Gandhi said ,’We worked silently for nine years to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir . When we started, terrorism was rampant in Kashmir. And when we finished by 2013, we basically broke the back of terror, I hugged (then) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and told him it was one of the biggest achievements. ‘However, the BJP government destroyed it in 30 days.’ Accusing PM Modi of opening the space for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, he said,’He (Modi) massively opened up space for the terrorists in Kashmir, and you saw the increase in violence.’ Strongly condemning violence against anybody, the Congress vice-president said, ‘I lost my father and my grandmother to violence. If I don’t understand violence then I’d be ignorant.’ Mr Gandhi said he was with the Sikh community in their fight against justice. ‘I love the Sikh community. I am with them in their fight for justice. I strongly condemn violence against anybody,’ Mr Gandhi said. In this context, he said the idea of ‘ahimsa’ (non violence ) propounded by Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi acts as uniting factor for various castes, religions and languages in the country. ‘The idea of ahimsa unites India’s castes, religions and languages. It is an idea that Gandhiji fashioned into a powerful but beautiful political weapon,’ Mr Gandhi said. Asked about the dynastic politics, Gandhi said, “Most of the country runs like this. That’s how India works.” “Dynastic politics is a problem in all political parties. Akhilesh (son of Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party), Stalin (son of M Karunanidhi in DMK), Abhishek Bachchan (son of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan) — are all examples of dynastic legacy. Also (Mukesh and Anil) Ambani (son of Dhirubhai Ambani).
That how the entire country is running,’he said. Describing the political vision of the Congress as being in sharp-contrast with that of the BJP, he said, ‘The BJP gives a top-down vision. However, we construct a bottom-up vision.’ Refuting the oft propagated view of him being a ‘reluctant politician’, he said ,’Being a reluctant politician is a perspective from 1000 BJP followers sitting on machines only spreading rumours about me.’ Talking about the decline in the Congress, Mr Gandhi said, ‘Around 2012, arrogance crept into the Congress party and we stopped having conversations with people.’ On his efforts for reorganisation in the Congress, he said,’Young people should be pushed forward. However, there is tremendous talent in the party among seniors. I am trying to make both work together.’ Terming political reform as much more important than administrative reform, Mr Gandhi said Parliamentarians needed to be involved in the conversation again. Attacking the Modi Government for its failure to create jobs, Mr Gandhi said, ‘At the heart of this powerful engine that India has built with its blood, sweat and bare hands since 1947 are jobs and economic growth. No amount of growth is enough for India if it’s not accompanied by the creation of jobs. It doesn’t matter how fast you grow. If you are not creating jobs, you are not actually solving the problem. So the central challenge for India is jobs. Roughly 12 million young people, 12 million, enter the Indian job market every year. Nearly 90 per cent of them have a high school education or less. India is a democratic country and unlike China, it has to create jobs in a democratic environment. India does not have and nor does it want China’s coercive instruments. We cannot follow their model of massive factories controlled by fear. 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. ‘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 . Meanwhile, entrepreneurs running small and medium businesses struggle to get bank loans. They have no protection and no support. Yet, these small and medium businesses are the bedrock of India and the world’s innovation. ‘ Questioning the foreign policy of the NDA government, he said, ‘The UPA’s design was to have relations with countries like the US, Russia and Iran. However, the current balance is making India vulnerable.’