Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, perceived to be a contender for the prime ministerial post in 2014, exhorted corporate chiefs on Thursday to realise the virtues of inclusive growth and asked them to use the country's complexities to their advantage.
In a speech that was marked by his striving to offer a broad vision for the 21st century India and its emotive content, but which hardly dwelt on the current economic issues in any detail, Gandhi said: Millions of Indians are brimming with energy. We are now sitting on an unprecedented tide of transformation. This tremendous movement of people and ideas are going to define this country in the 21st century." Addressing a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) gathering of corporate heads here, he called for decentralisation of power and empowered grama pradhans and urged India Inc to tap into the potential of one-billion-plus people and participate in building country's infrastructure.
We need better physical structure for Indias growth. The government can't do it alone. We need inclusive growth, he said. Our environment is not simple. All of you are masters of complexity. Clogged political system is holding India back, but all this complexity is good training. If you can do it here, you can do it on the moon, Gandhi added.
In a veiled attack on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is seen as the contender for the PM's post from BJP, Gandhi said, If you play the politics of community, you stop the movement of people and ideas. India has grown faster under UPA because we have lowered tensions between communities.
Modi will address the ladies wing of another industry lobby, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), on April 8 here. The biggest danger is excluding people, including the poor, minorities and dalits... Anger, hatred and prejudice do not help growth. If you alienate communities, we all suffer, he said. Highlighting the need for decentralising power and empowering gram pradhans, he told corporate leaders: If you expect Manmohan Singhji to solve everything alone, you can keep expecting. A large number of problems can be fixed by people at lower levels. we have to move away from the idea of the guy on the horse who is going to come charging through and India is going to be fixed.
Comparing India's development model with China's, Gandhi said India is a beehive and we should understand our power, China is a dragon, people call us an elephant but we aren't, we are a beehive. We have to understand where our power comes from. His speech was full of anecdotes, but failed to address issues such as high inflation, corruption and increasing current account deficit. In his hour-long address, during which he also lauded the work of Nandan Nilekani and Sam Pitroda, Gandhi told the gathering that he will meet them more often.
Opposition BJP and some commentators called Gandhi's address less than inspiring and confused. Many had expected him to use the platform to outline his economic vision for a country, which is facing a growth slowdown and a prolonged investment torpor. India's current account deficit touched a record 6.7% of the GDP in the December quarter, owing to high and coal imports and a near flat growth in exports.
Rahul's speech reflected that he lives in his own world. There was no mention of corruption or inflation. It was clear that there was Modiphobia." said Prakash Javadekar, BJP spokesperson "I think he was very honest and made the points straight from his heart," said Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises, one of India's biggest business groups, who was in the audience.
BJP MP Yashwant Sinha said he was perplexed by what Gandhi had said but maintained he had been relevant in some parts Who was he criticising Certainly not us as we have not been in power for the last several years. Was he targeting his family or his party Sinha asked