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Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Berkeley, California: Key highlights

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-09-2017 Livemint

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi’s speech to students at University of California, Berkeley on Monday touched all major aspects of contemporary Indian politics, right from defending questions on dynasty politics to raising questions over the Modi government’s demonetisation drive. Not only that, the Congress vice-president said that he was “absolutely ready” to take up an executive responsibility if the party asked him to do so.

Here are the main highlights from Rahul Gandhi’s speech to students at University of California, Berkeley:

On the Congress: “The vision that we laid out in 2004 was designed at best for a 10-year period. And it was pretty clear that the vision that we laid out in 2004 by the time we arrived in 2010-11 was not working anymore. Somewhere around 2012, and I say this, a certain arrogance crept into the Congress party. And they stopped having that conversation.”

On dynasty politics: Most parties in India have that problem (dynasty politics) So...Mr Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast. Mr Stalin is a dynast... even Abhishek Bachchhan is a dynast. So that’s how India runs. So don’t get after me because that’s how India is run. By the way, last, I recall, Mr Ambanis are running the business. That’s also going on in Infosys. So that’s what happens in India. The real question is the person is actually capable, is the person a sensitive person and that’s the question.”

On NDA government’s policies: “The central architecture they borrowed from us. But that architecture does not work. Because we know it. It stopped working.”

On Modi’s foreign policy: “Whereas I completely agree with their positioning as far as the (ties with) the US is concerned, I think they’re making India vulnerable because, if you look at Nepal, the Chinese are there. If you look at Burma the Chinese are there. If you look at Sri Lanka, the Chinese are there. If you look at Maldives, the Chinese are there. So on basic direction (of the foreign policy) I agree... friendship with the United States, close bond with United States. But don’t isolate India, because it gets dangerous.

On religious polarisation: “The politics of polarisation has raised its ugly head in India. People are being lynched because they are Dalit. Muslims were killed on suspicion of eating beef. This is new in India and damages India very badly. Hatred Anger and violence can destroy us, the politics of polarization is dangerous. I understand what violence does, violence against anybody is wrong. Congress party decides policy and vision through conversations and not by imposing. Violence can never be justified. I will do everything in my power to help Sikhs get justice.”

On demonetisation, GST: “Ignoring India’s tremendous institutional knowledge and taking such decisions is reckless and dangerous. This does not include the massive pool of already employed youngsters. The decline in economic growth today is leading to an upsurge of anger in the country. The government’s economic policies-demonetisation and hastily-applied GST have caused tremendous damage. Millions of small businesses were simply wiped out as a result of the demonetisation, farmers and many who use cash were hit extremely hard. Agriculture is in deep distress and farmers’ suicides have skyrocketed across the country. Gandhi described demonetisation “a completely self- inflicted wound” that caused approximately 2% loss of the GDP.

On Modi as Prime Minister: “I’m an opposition leader. But Mr Modi is also my prime minister. Mr Modi has certain skills. He’s a very good communicator. Probably much better than me. He understands how to give a message to three or four different groups in a crowd. So his messaging abilities very subtle and very effective. What I sense is that he doesn’t converse with the people he works with. Even members of Parliament of the BJP come to me and tell me that ‘sunte nahi hain’ (he does not listen to us.

On Make in India: “I like the concept of ‘Make in India’. But the orientation of ‘Make in India’ is slightly different than what I would. So, the orientation of Make in India is big business and a lot of it is defence. My orientation of ‘Make in India’ would be small and medium businesses.”

On political reform: “Today our MPs don’t make laws. They are worried about building roads in villages. And they get punished for not building roads in villages. They should be making laws. They should be empowered to make laws. That’s their job. And that is the fundamental thing that has this gone wrong in India.”

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