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RSS planted the idea of demonetisation, says Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi made the remarks in the course of a series of interactive events with audiences that included policy experts, diplomats, scholars and British MPs.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2018 00:05 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Rahul Gandhi,Demonetisation,RSS
Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a panel at International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London on Friday.(PTI Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday compared the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist organisation of the Arab world, and alleged the RSS wants to change the fundamental nature of India -- comments that the BJP condemned.

Gandhi made the remarks in the course of a series of interactive events with audiences that included policy experts, diplomats, scholars and British MPs. He said bad economic policy ideas such as demonetisation came from the RSS.

A “formidable alliance” was being stitched to ensure the defeat of the BJP in the 2019 elections, Gandhi said.

“The RSS is trying to change the nature of India. Other parties haven’t tried to capture India’s institutions,” Gandhi said at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank.

“The RSS’s idea is similar to the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world,” he said.

“We are fighting against attempts to impose rigid, hate-fuelled angry ideology of the RSS in the country, its attempts to capture and destroy institutions nurtured and developed over 70 years. There is a sustained attack on the weak,” he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is the oldest Islamist political group in the Arab world but several countries do not allow it to operate as a political party. Mohamed Badie, its leader, is currently in prison and it has been labelled a terror organisation by Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Gandhi targeted the RSS for the second time in as many days.

On Thursday, addressing the Indian diaspora at an event in Berlin, he said the Congress binds together the people of India while the BJP and RSS divides them and spreads hatred.

Hitting back, BJP spokesman Sambit Patra demanded Gandhi to apologies to 125 crore Indians and stop his job of acting as a “contract killer for the idea of India”. Patra reacted strongly to Gandhi likening the RSS to the Muslim Brotherhood and asked if a terrorist outfit was ruling India? “Are you suggesting that the government of India is working like a terrorist organsiation and expanding through invasion?” Patra asked Gandhi. “What Rahul Gandhi has done in London is unforgivable.”

Gandhi also spoke on other issues such as India’s relations with China. The alleged presence of Chinese troops in the Doklam region reflects the Narendra Modi government’s “episodic” and “event-centric” approach to foreign policy, he said as he listed a catalogue of the administration’s perceived failures.

Describing the Modi government’s handling of the standoff with China at Doklam as an example of its alleged failure, Gandhi said the face-off was not a one-off event but part of a sequence of events. He regretted that instead of viewing it as part of a process, the government had an “episodic” approach to it.

“This government has an event-centric perspective. Doklam is part of a process; he (Modi) sees it as an event. The truth is that the Chinese are still there. If we were in power, Doklam would not have happened,” Gandhi said at the IISS.

“On Pakistan too, the Modi government lacks a coherent strategy, but sees it as episodic. The problem is who do you talk to in Pakistan, which institution do you talk. They have institutions that hate us, promote terror in our country, we don’t want to talk to them.”

Gandhi cited the experience of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose initiatives with the civilian government in Islamabad were undermined by other institutions in the country, through events such as the Kargil intrusions.

While expounding on the Modi government’s foreign policy, Gandhi took a swipe at the alleged domination of the foreign ministry by the Prime Minister’s Office, saying the “capable” minister, Sushma Swaraj, would have achieved something if she were allowed to work, instead of being confined to responding to visa requests on Twitter.

Gandhi told a gathering in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster that the Congress has succeeded in “completely dismantling” the idea that the Modi government is a success by highlighting what he called its “insane economic policies” such as demonetisation.

“There is a job crisis in India. China is creating 50,000 jobs in 24 hours, India is creating 450. These are not my figures but government of India data. The jobs will come from small and medium enterprises but the Modi government focuses only on some big businessmen,” he said.

According to him, Modi is “not allowing Indians to express themselves”, while the Congress wants to return the country to the “old India” of pre-2014, of social inclusion, when journalists and those holding differing views did not face threats to life and limb.

“You will feel the weight of a combined opposition in the coming assembly and general elections. Look at the arithmetic, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, if the opposition come together, the BJP cannot even win five seats; and if they don’t do well in these states, they cannot win the election,” Gandhi said.

The event in Parliament was hosted by senior Labour MP Keith Vaz and attended by party MPs Virendra Sharma and Seema Malhotra. Gandhi also addressed students at the London School of Economics on Friday evening.

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 23:30 IST