Rahul’s US visit will be the turning point: Overseas Congress unit chief
“What is good for India is good for us. The NRIs are ready to support anyone who they feel is taking India in the right direction. If Modi’s BJP had done well for India, they would have supported it.”india Updated: Oct 13, 2017 20:38 IST
“The Congress is all set to come out of the wilderness, and Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the United States in September marks the turning point.” Shudh Prakash Singh, president of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA, says this with conviction. He should know, for he presented the party vice-president with a baseball bat on his last day in the US, exhorting him to go back and hit the home run.
“He is doing just that, be it in Gujarat or Delhi,” says the soft-spoken businessman based in New York with roots in Abohar in Punjab’s Fazilka district, who is now here to deliver the bat to Gandhi.
Contrary to the political observers back home who think the Gandhi scion is the biggest liability of Congress, IOC members, says Singh, believe he can swing the party’s fortunes. “We have suggested that he should have more public interactions, especially with youngsters. People should be able to experience Rahul,” says Singh, who was “floored” by Gandhi in 2014 when he visited New York all by himself. “I had recently bought a Maserati, and wanted to ferry Rahul in that, but he insisted on standing in a queue and riding a cab.”
‘Trolls to blame’
Singh believes the successful US visit is forcing the Indian voter to revisit Rahul. “He won the hearts of everyone he met in the US with his humility and intellect.” Tell him that intellect is not considered a strong point of Rahul, lampooned by his detractors, and Singh blames it on an army of trolls the BJP has unleashed on him. “He told the gathering at Berkeley how the BJP had employed an army of 1,000 people led by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi to run him down. They twist whatever he says,” fumes Singh.
An apolitical person until 2001, Singh joined the IOC when party chief Sonia Gandhi came on a visit to the US in 2001. “I was introduced to her by my mentor, a former Indian ambassador, and I was touched by her sincerity. I wanted to name a school after her, but she said she didn’t want anything in her name,” he recounts.
On Sikh protesters
He says what impressed NRIs was Rahul’s refusal to slam Sikh demonstrators outside the venue at Berkeley. “He said ‘I am with them. I can understand their pain’.” He went on to add how on that fateful day in 1984, he not only lost his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) but also a friend in the gunman who used to play badminton with him (and shot her), he says.
The NRIs, claims Singh, are not really political. “What is good for India is good for us. The NRIs are ready to support anyone who they feel is taking India in the right direction. If Modi’s BJP had done well for India, they would have supported it.”
‘Fear of becoming Pak’
The biggest fear the NRIs have, he says, is of India turning into another Saudi Arabia or Pakistan with limited freedom for its citizens. “We want it to be a free, democratic and secular country.” The NRIs, he claims, are sore with Modi for pushing economic policies without adequate planning and foresight. “Demonetisation hasn’t worked anywhere in the world, yet he implemented it,” Singh makes a point.
Rahul Gandhi, he hopes, will prove to be wiser.