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From dynastic politics to 1984 riots: What Rahul Gandhi said in his address at UC Berkeley

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for demonetisation and the hastily implemented GST regime.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2017 14:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Congress,UC Berkeley
Rahul Gandhi at the University of California, Berkeley. (Twitter/INC )

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed students at the University of California, Berkeley on Tuesday, attacking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for its economic policies and the spiraling conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.

Here are the key takeaways from his address: 

Dynastic politics

When asked about 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 (Yadav, Samajwadi Party), (MK, DMK) Stalin, Abhishek Bachchan (son of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan) -- are all examples of dynastic legacy; also (Mukesh and Anil) Ambanis, that’s how the entire country is running.”

“Even (Prem Kumar) Dhumal’s son (Anurag Thakur) is a dynast, so don’t go just after me.”

Congress’ decline

Gandhi was candid about Congress’ arrogance in 2012. The party lost power in 2014 General elections and has witnessed several defeats in state assembly elections since then.

“Around 2012, arrogance crept into the Congress party and we stopped having conversations with people... For rebuilding the party, we need to design a vision that we can use moving forward. Most of what the BJP is doing, is what we once said,” Gandhi said, citing the examples of UPA government schemes such as MNREGA and GST.

“The core architecture of the BJP schemes are ours.”

1984 anti-Sikh riots

When asked why politicians like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, named in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots being shielded by Congress, Gandhi said: “Violence against anybody is wrong, and I condemn it, I absolutely love the (Sikh) community. If there’s anything I can do to help them get justice I’ll be the first person to do so...”

NDA’s economic policies

Government’s economic policy of demonetisation and the hastily implemented GST has caused tremendous pressure on the economy, Gandhi said, adding that the government’s decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes “cost us two per cent loss in GDP (gross domestic product).”

“Decisions like demonetisation, which removed 86% of cash from circulation were done unilaterally, without asking the chief economic advisor or the Cabinet or even Parliament. It (demonetisation) caused tremendous damage.”

Kashmir conflict

“When we started, terrorism was rampant in Kashmir. And when we finished by 2013, we basically broke the back of terror, I hugged the (then) prime minister Manmohan Singh and told him it was one of the biggest achievements,” Gandhi said, accusing PM Modi of opening the space for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gandhi also referred to the role of the ruling party in J-K, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and its alliance partner BJP in the state: “PDP was instrumental in bringing youngsters in politics, but the day Modi made alliance with PDP, he destroyed them.”

“So he (Modi) massively opened up space for the terrorists in Kashmir, and you saw the increase in violence.”

Lynchings and attacks on Liberals

Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government for the incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism that unleashed violence, Gandhi said, “I understand what violence does, violence against anybody is wrong.”

“Hatred, anger and violence can destroy us, the politics of polarisation is dangerous,” he said, adding that even liberal journalists are being shot.

Gandhi’s statement came days after Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in Bengaluru.

“These incidents are making millions feel that they have no future in their country.”

Non-violence

The “idea of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ is what has allowed this mass of people (India) to rise together and it is the only idea which can take humanity forward”.

“I lost my father, my grandmother to violence. If I don’t understand violence, then who will?” Gandhi asked, referring to the the assassinations of his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi.

Jobs in India

The Congress leader spoke about why it is extremely important to create jobs in India. Taking a jibe at the Modi government as well as at China, he said: “The core constituency of right wing leaders are those who cannot get a job.”

“Unlike China, India has to create jobs in a democratic environment. But India doesn’t want or need China’s coercive model.”

(With IANS inputs)

First Published: Sep 12, 2017 11:40 IST