In his just-concluded trip to the US, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi highlighted a number of problems affecting India. He raked up issues like employment, economic slowdown allegedly due to GST and demonetisation, religious intolerance, farmers’ problems etc in a bid to win the support of NRIs for his political campaigns in the run up the 2019 General elections. On some occasions he contradicted himself.
Consider these two statements from his speech at Times Square in New York on Wednesday: “Ideas take time to travel into India. But, when an idea is good, India understands it very quickly, and uses it and shows the world how it can be used.” He was talking in the context of technological ideas like introducing computers etc. But how can India show the world about the way to use something that it has borrowed from other countries?
Later he said, “I don’t view India as a piece of land. I view India as a set of ideas. So for me, anybody who has the ideas that makeup India is an Indian.” Here the idea he was referring to was philosophical idea of India. If Rahul is true to his words, he should have no problem with the BJP, or Modi, as it also represents one of the “set of ideas” which Rahul was referring to in the US.
Anyway, Rahul is a politician and PM aspirant. We can’t expect acute honesty in his speeches.
In his speeches in the US, Rahul talked about a number of problems India is facing. However, when it comes to solutions, Rahul had only one thing to offer – the Congress. If Rahul is to be believed, Congress, its very idea, can transform India. But what is the idea of Congress party?
Rahul said, “We have many religions in our country. We have many different languages in our country. Every single one of them lives happily together, and the reason they have been able to do so are the ideas of the Congress party.”
Since independence, Congress and its idea have ruled the country for most of the decades. Issues like secularism and religious tolerance sound nice to the ears. But these are not India’s big problems. The real problems are different and no one can deny that Congress has had a big role in giving roots to them. India is still poor, its education system rotten, there is anarchy in the informal employment sector and people are still divided on the lines of caste, region, and religion. As an opposition leader, Rahul has all the rights to attack Modi or the BJP and blame them for all these woes. But to win votes, he would have to come up with new promises and formula.
India voted out the idea of Congress in 2014. Rahul needs to come out with original ideas and for that he may have to break away from the idea of Congress itself to take India on a new path he envisions.
In the US, Rahul appeared short of ideas when it comes to job creation. He did invite NRIs to come and work with Congress, invest in India. But this is what Narendra Modi is also doing.
To solve India’s employment woes, Rahul said he has a vision. “The Congress party has the vision to solve this problem. And I will tell you a little bit about this vision. Currently, the entire focus is on 50 or 60 really large companies. We believe that if you are to create millions and millions of jobs in India, it has to be done by empowering small and medium businesses and entrepreneurs.”
To say the entire focus at present is just on 50-60 large companies may be fine as a political rally statement. But with the benefit of hindsight, Rahul must be knowing that such statement doesn’t translate into votes for Congress these days.
Watch Rahul Gandhi’s speech at Times Square, New York
Action speaks, not ideas
A few days ago, while speaking at Princeton University, Rahul appeared confused on whether he likes or dislikes the Make In India concept of Modi. Rahul said Modi government’s “Make in India” is one policy that he wished his Congress party had introduced. “I like the ‘Make in India’ concept but they are not targeting whom they should. My implementation and focus would be slightly different,” the Congress vice-president said.
“PM Modi feels large businesses should be targeted. I feel medium and small companies should be targeted. That is where the jobs are going to come from,” the 47-year-old added. However, Make In India project is aimed at attracting large global companies to manufacture in India. There are other schemes for small organisations.
Rahul had also criticised the implementation of GST. In past, he has accused BJP of introducing a flawed GST law hastily. He, however, didn’t give any clue on whether the Congress had any better idea to implement GST at the earliest.
In a bid to wrest control of power from Modi in 2019, Rahul has taken the first step. But he can’t walk miles without offering concrete solutions to India’s woes. Mere ideas don’t work in India anymore. Actions do.