I've seen violence up close, I've had family members killed and I understand how violence works and why violence is destructive.
The next general election will be fought between the BJP and the Opposition alliance as for the first time there has been a “systematic attack” on Indian institutions, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has said.
In an interaction with the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (UK) at the London School of Economics yesterday, Gandhi said that the first priority of the Congress is to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and stop the institutions in India from being encroached upon.
“The next election is pretty straightforward. On one side there is BJP and on the other side, there is every opposition party. The reason is, for the first time, Indian institutions are under attack,” he said.
“What we are defending is the onslaught on the Indian constitution and Indian institutions, and me and the entire opposition sees it as defending the nature of the Indian state.
“So we’ve agreed that our first priority is to defeat the BJP and stop this encroachment on the institutional space of India, stop the poison that is being spread, stop the division that is taking place,” Gandhi said.
“The important thing is I operate in a democracy. I have been attacked. I have learned and you can see what I bring to the table,” Gandhi said.
The Congress president said that “the essence of our ideology is non-violence. As a victim of violence, I condemn any form of violence on anyone. I’m crystal clear about that.
“I have been through a certain degree of violence. Those experiences have made me compassionate to people”. Asked what does he bring to the job along with the family name as he has had a very long probation in politics, Gandhi said: “I’ve been through a certain degree of violence. I’ve seen violence up close, I’ve had family members killed and I understand how violence works and why violence is destructive.
“Those experiences have made me a compassionate person. I have a tendency to reach out and listen, in my work it is a very useful thing, it helps one build coalition, listen and actually move things forward”.
Almost everybody in the Opposition are of the view that there is a “systematic attack” on Indian institutions, Gandhi said.
Standing up for the oppressed is the idea of the Congress and every Indian has this embedded in them, he said.
Gandhi said that from the Indian perspective, development has taken place through the sacrifice of all Indians. Their benefit, too, must go to all Indians. No community should feel like they do not have a voice.
He said that there is a full-blown crisis in India and its called the job crisis and the Indian government is not accepting it. Its simply saying it does not exist.
“Where China creates 50,000 jobs a day, only 450 jobs are created in a day in India. This is a catastrophe,” he said, adding that this job problem can be solved but India has to first accept that there is a problem.
It is okay to challenge someone, to take someone on, to disagree with someone but hating them is a choice that people make and it is not necessary to hate people, he said.
“We can’t afford to have the types of wars that we had 50/60 – 100 years ago because we would basically destroy the planet. India has a vision of its own for the world. And we’re going to certainly work with others but we also have a perspective that’s important,” Gandhi said.
Asked about his vision in the areas of social justice, secularism and economic policy, the Congress president said: “I like to view it much more in terms of the processes that are taking place and what I see is a transformation of 1.3 billion people, a transformation that started over a hundred years ago, a modernising impulse in India, a impulse to reach out to the world, a impulse to leave the Indian village, break the shackles of caste.”
Gandhi said that the central problem India is facing and the US and Western Europe has faced that “we are unable to produce the number of jobs we need”.
“We have released hundreds and millions of youngsters from our villages and they’re coming to the cities and telling us, guys we need jobs.
“And Indian state is saying to them, sorry we’re not going to give you jobs, we actually can’t give you jobs, so we’re going to have a conversation about irrelevant stuff, about how we can divide the nation or what this cricketer looks like or what this actress says,” he said.
India is 1.3 billion different perspectives, every Indian person has a particular view, he said. “So the term secularism encompasses only the religious aspect. I say there shouldn’t be a single Indian person regardless of religion, caste, community, state, gender, handicapped, anything, who should not feel that my voice is not heard in this country,” Gandhi said.
He said that today members of Parliament do not have power. They do not have power to make laws.
“Today laws are made by the Prime Minister’s office, by the ministers and by a set of bureaucrats. It means that we need to make our members of parliament actually powerful.
“We need to actually turn around and say the fact that you are sitting in this house means that you will have law making power. The moment you give them law making power you will see the quality of the debate will climb immediately,” Gandhi added.