BJP uses people’s fears, Mayawati compromised her movement: Rahul Gandhi
The Congress “should stand on its own” in the Uttarindia Updated: Sep 24, 2016 18:58 IST
The Congress “should stand on its own” in the Uttar Pradesh elections next year, says Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in an interview to Hindustan Times. He speaks about issues ranging from the Kashmir crisis to farmers’ distress.
Q. What is the idea behind the Deoria-Delhi Kisan Yatra?
A. The role of an opposition leader is to represent the voice of people. Farmers are in pain. Agriculture has suffered tremendously in the past two-and-a-half years. Cities are expanding, there is scarcity of water and other factors contribute as well. Some of these are structural problems others are not. The UPA government’ s approach was to help farmers as there was an understanding that they face severe difficulties and need support. This understanding was reflected in our response at Bhatta Parsaul when we amended the land acquisition act , in our loan waiver scheme, in the increase of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers and the formulation of a job guarantee scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MNREGA).
Q. Has it changed?
A. Yes, of course. The BJP’s approach in the past 2.5 years has been to abandon and betray farmers. This will not only have an adverse impact on agriculture and rural India, but it will also affect the entire country. A large part of the UPA’s economic success came from rural India. Experts will affirm this.
Funds that were injected in to the villages pushed the economic cycle in the villages. This in turn fired the national economic cycle. The BJP agricultural policy is wrong on two counts. Firstly: it’s inhumane and cruel. You are letting down large sections of our countrymen who are in genuinely deep distress. Secondly: it is not strategic. You are harming India economically.
Q. What is the Kisan Yatra all about?
A. This Yatra is an expression of that idea. It was designed to make Mr Narendra Modi aware of what a grave injustice he is doing to our country, not just to poor farmers. The response to the Yatra has been hugely positive because farmers are in deep pain. The farmers are crying out for help and no one is listening to them. The Congress party and I have only given expression to their voice.
Q. Uttarakhand , Punjab and other states too have polls? Why are you focusing on UP?
A. This Kisan Yatra is a national issue for me. I thought of taking the Yatra through four or five states but the senior leaders of my party felt that I should do so in a focused manner in UP with a message that went across the whole country.
Q. How do you propose to bring the lost vote banks to the Congress?
A. Vote banks matter when there is an attempt to extract something out of a state like Uttar Pradesh. We do not want to take from the people of Uttar Pradesh. We want to give them a vision of their huge potential. We want to tell people that if you support this vision we can change the lives of people. We can change Uttar Pradesh.
Q. How to bring about the change?
A. Uttar Pradesh’s agriculture has huge potential but it is dying. If we do not provide a fair price to farmers, if we do not create food-processing units, if we do not create a cold chain that links farms to the end customer, if we do not efficiently link the farmer to the national and international markets, it will be impossible for the state to progress. Indulging in extraction and extortion from farmers will only bring the state to ruin.
Giving the farmers a vision, strengthening their capacity and enabling them to utilize their full potential will create immense prosperity. The same applies to the youth, women, professionals and labourers. Nobody has actually believed in UP in the past 27 years , they have not put their faith in the people of UP. I have a lot of faith in the people of UP. I am absolutely convinced that they have the potential to make UP the number one state in India. I told this to some investors who met me recently and they looked surprised but I am convinced that it will happen. UP has the greatest potential in India.
Q. The condition of farmers is bad despite a loan waiver. Will another loan waiver help?
A. We asked farmers what their needs were. They told us three things: they needed the burden of their debts reduced, they asked if power bills could be brought down and if they could be given the right prices for their produce. Experts have also said the same thing . The Swaminathan committee made similar observations on prices in its report.
If the BJP thinks the farmers should be helped in a different manner, then they should come out with an alternative strategy. They have not spelt out a single suggestion for the support of farmers in the last two and a half years.
If the Prime Minister wants to help corporates, I am not against it, but those who are suffering the most should be helped as well. If he can waive 110,000 crores of debt for a handful of corporates then how can they claim that waiving loans for farmers is encouraging a “bad habit “. Shouldn’t the same rule apply for all?
Q. What are your views on the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh?
A. The Uttar Pradesh government has failed. The people of Uttar Pradesh gave a huge opportunity to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ji but he failed to fulfill their aspirations. They wanted change. He should not have tolerated corruption and goondaism . If he had taken a strong stance he might have succeeded in transforming UP. Although I am a leader of the opposition, it makes me sad that a young leader like him was unable to deliver. I too was hopeful that he would bring about change. It is a pity that five years have been wasted.
Q. Will the Congress have any alliances?
A. We want to give a vision to Uttar Pradesh. We want to show a path of development and change to the people of the state , especially the youth. I feel the Congress should stand on its own and fight the 2017 assembly elections on the basis of its ideology and policies without compromising with them.
Q. What is the Congress’ vision?
A. The Congress party is everybody’s party. This is embedded in our DNA. It will decentralize power away from a single person or family. We will fight the criminal network that controls UP and steals from its people. We will bring industry in and provide them with the requisite infrastructure thereby creating jobs for the youth. We will develop a health care and education system accessible to all, especially the weakest and the poorest sections. We will revive UP’s agriculture by supporting the farmer and strengthening him and finally, we will ensure that no community or person feels isolated and threatened in the state. The Congress party will ensure that everyone has an equal right and an equal opportunity to progress and to prosper.
Q. What about the BJP?
A. The BJP’s vision centers on how to capitalise on people’s fears; they know how to convert the people’s fear and anger into hatred. This is what they have perfected from Savarkar to Mr. Narendra Modi. It is their core competence; they are very good at it.
Q. What do you have to say about Mayawati?
A. At a personal level, I have respect for both - Akhilesh Yadavji and Mayawatiji. Kanshiramji and Mayawatiji did a tremendous amount of work before she became chief minister. After the death of Kanshi Ramji , Mayawatiji no longer valued his legacy. Unfortunately, she has totally compromised and sold the movement. I have failed to understand why she did this. I believe that the compromises she has made have deeply hurt Uttar Pradesh.
Q. Is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on the decline?
A. I think Uttar Pradesh wants a paradigm shift. The Congress can provide this paradigm shift to the people of UP. It has an opportunity to do so today.
Q. So should the Congress work harder?
A. The Congress has to defend its ideology. No one can stop the Congress if we do not compromise on our ideology. Hard work is a prerequisite for success.
Q. But caste politics plays a major role in the state.
A. What is required is a vision for Uttar Pradesh. The people will come out of this only when they have an alternative idea. An alternative idea is - Let’s build Uttar Pradesh instead of extracting from it.
Why are we not able to imagine a new Uttar Pradesh? Why do we imagine an Uttar Pradesh of the past? The only conversation I hear about UP is about its past. Let’s decide what UP can do in the next five years and lets show that we can get it done together.
Gandhiji said the weakest of all should be protected and helped. Everybody should be given space. No one should feel fearful. No caste or community should feel insecure or threatened or be oppressed. Everybody should get an opportunity to have a secure future and fulfill his or her own dreams.
Q. Is division of Uttar Pradesh a solution?
A. There are no short cuts in life. No simple solutions. Success is not going to be served on a platter, all of us have a responsibility to work hard towards the betterment of the people of UP.
Q. What are three major challenges for India?
A. Unemployment, water scarcity and corruption. I would add a fourth. The fuelling of hatred and the politics of dividing people to come to power.
Q. Your views on Jammu and Kashmir?
A. The Congress had a solid strategy for Kashmir. We had put an end to violence in Kashmir by the end of our term. Central paramilitary forces, army personnel and civilians were no longer being killed. This was a direct result of our work.
Q. What was the strategy?
A. The foundation of our strategy was to isolate Pakistan internationally. Close down their space to create trouble in the valley and engage solidly with the people and youth of Jammu and Kashmir.
After Bombay Manmohan Singh ji and our government worked silently to isolate Pakistan. It was a huge diplomatic effort. We convinced the world that Pakistan was a terrorist state and completely isolated them. We made them a pariah state.
We worked diligently to close political space for anti India forces in the state. We developed a detailed plan. It included jobs and training for youth through the Himayat and Udaan programs. We took India’s top industrialists there to build trust. We gave almost a 1000 Crores to create self help groups and link thousands of women to the Indian banking system.
But by far the most devastating blow we landed against the militants was the holding of Panchayat elections. This simply destroyed their ability to operate in the state. Pradhans became the guardians of the state. For the first time thousands of Pradhans started informing security forces about militants that came into their areas. Many dissatisfied youngsters got space in the Indian electoral system. The fire of hope was kindled.
Q. What about the BJP’s strategy?
A. It is sad but the BJP does not have a strategy for Kashmir. The alliance between the PDP and the BJP was a strategic disaster for Jammu and Kashmir and for India. It will cost us for years to come.
The alliance completely destroyed the PDP’ ability to bring dissatisfied people into the political system. It obliterated the PDP as a political instrument and gifted its entire space to anti-Indian forces. From my perspective this opportunistic alliance was a crime against India. Everything we did for nine years was wiped out in a matter of days. It basically provided an open door for Pakistan to walk in.
Geo-political strategy cannot be based on event management. It is not episodic and it’s not a game. You have to take into account and respect the views of the people who have experience in these areas. The prime minister is episodic and refuses to listen to the experts. India is paying a massive price as a result of it.
Q. What should be done?
A. Develop a sound strategy and follow it. Isolate Pakistan internationally and regain the political and operational space ceded to terrorists supported by them. Engage with the people of Jammu and Kashmir--show them we care. Demonstrate that an alternative vision to violence is possible.
Recognize and use our immense assets. How did we isolate Pakistan? Smaller countries play a huge role. The countries associated with the Non Alignment Movement (NAM) helped us tremendously. The PM completely walked away from his biggest asset by not going to NAM. The PM should start listening to experts and his ministerial colleagues. There are brilliant people in our bureaucracy, institutions and agencies. Absolutely brilliant - use their deep understanding. The PM talks but he does not listen. People are afraid of telling the PM what they think.
Q. Will Congress support?
A. The Congress will fully support a strategy on Jammu and Kashmir. We have to work with the assumption that Pakistan will make full use of any opportunity it gets. Our job is to deny them any such opportunity and all of us should work together to achieve this. They will do whatever they can do to destabilize us. Our job and duty is to deny them the space to do so at the lowest possible cost to the nation.
Q. How is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s health?
A. My mother’s health is fine. Her sense of duty prevented her from postponing the roadshow even though she was down with viral fever, this led to her health worsening suddenly but now she has fully recovered. Only her shoulder will require a few more weeks of physiotherapy.
Q. We hear that you will be elevated as Congress president?
A. As of now we are working on these elections.
Q. Will Priyanka Gandhi Vadra play a more active role?
A. I do want that. I have told her to actively help me. I trust my sister, she is a good friend to me and I would love to work with her.