Launching an attack on the BJP, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said there is a general atmosphere of “intimidation” in India where “nasty form of politics” of dividing people are being played to win elections.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, Gandhi also said that there is a challenge to the institutional structure of India.
“If you ask me what am I proud about my country…it is the idea of plurality. It’s the idea that people in India can say anything they want, do anything they want and they won’t face any problem and that is being challenged…,” he said.
“There is a particular type of politics that’s not only happening in India but in a number of places – of dividing people, of using (their) anger to win elections and that’s what is happening in India,” he told the audience at the school, which is part of the National University of Singapore.
Commenting on the recent controversy of four senior Supreme Court judges holding an unprecedented press conference, Gandhi said, “Normally in India, the people go to the judges for justice. For the first time in my life, I saw four Supreme Court judges actually go to the people for justice. They went to the press and said that they need the people to hear their voice as there is something that is fundamentally wrong.”
“I don’t know if you know the details about the comments they (judges) were making but the centre of the issue is the case of (BJP president) Amit Shah. So, there is a challenge to the institutional structure of our country,” he said, apparently referring to the issue of alleged mysterious death of special CBI judge BH Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
Shah was discharged as an accused in the case.
Gandhi alleged that there is a “very very aggressive and organised attack on the system and on the judiciary. If you speak to the press, if you talk to business people, they will also tell you that we feel intimidated. so there is a general atmosphere of intimidation.”
The Congress president said that the idea of India that Mahatma Gandhi envisioned was that an India where everybody is comfortable regardless of religion, community, regardless of state.
“The idea that anybody coming to India, even the foreigner coming to India, feel comfortable in the country…that idea is being challenged now,” he asserted.
“Where we are running into trouble now is the levels of violence and anger that you are seeing in India and this to me is a syndrome,” he said, adding that “I’m proud to say that our vision is bringing people together.”
Responding to a question, Gandhi accused the BJP and the RSS of indulging in anti-minorities politics.
“Mahatma Gandhi died protecting minorities. We, the Congress party, have been protecting minority people for the last 70 years. We don’t like an India where people are persecuted, where people are being beaten up for what they eat, what they say and what they wear,” he said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi controls the law making, he controls the UP police, he controls the Haryana police, he controls these things. An extremely nasty form of politics is playing out in India,” Gandhi said, without elaborating.
“We will fight this nasty form of politics and we will defeat the BJP in the next election…Very soon you will see an India where everybody is loved, respected and taken along,” he asserted.
He also criticised BJP’s Kashmir policy, saying the UPA government had curbed terrorism by 2012 but it resurfaced after the BJP came to power in 2014.
“One complaint I have against the BJP’s policy is that it is episodic rather than strategic,” he said.
“In 2014, when I went to Jammu and Kashmir, I felt like crying. I saw what a bad political decision can do to years and years of work,” he said.
The BJP has lost the touch with the people and created a strategic problem in Jammu and Kashmir, he said and underlined the need to engage people and win their trust.
“It is very easy to pretend that you will have simple solutions. There are no simple solutions. You can divide people and play politics, but how is dividing communities going to give them jobs?” he asked.
He also slammed the BJP government over its “bad record” of creating jobs, saying “our record is better”.
Responding to a question on International Women’s Day today, Gandhi said the Congress party had sought to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill but it was opposed by other parties.
On India’s foreign policy, he said India has to have peaceful relations with China, the US, Europe, Asean and others. He said India and China should have a peaceful and co-operative relationship.
Answering a wide range of questions from the panel and audience, Gandhi spoke of India’s advantage in connecting its skilled people through IT and manufacturing sector.
He noted Chinese manufacturing capabilities of having factory operation based on large workforce, some running into 50,000 to 100,000 which, however, was not applicable to India due to different culture of working.
He also spoke of India’s potential of developing a health care for the global markets.
Gandhi is on a two-day visit to Singapore and will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tomorrow. He will then travel to Malaysia where he will meet Prime Minister Najib Razak and members of the Indian community.