Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi began his two-week visit to the US on 11 September, where he addressed students at the University of California, Berkeley, in his first engagement in the country.
Gandhi addressed students at the International House, Chevron Auditorium, as a part of the varsity's 'India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward' event.
Gandhi, 47, was received at the San Francisco airport by senior Congress leader Sam Pitroda and Shudh Singh, the president of Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC), US.
"Politics of Polarisation Is Dangerous"
Slamming the BJP-led central government for the incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism that unleashed violence, Gandhi said, “I understand what violence does, violence against anybody is wrong.”
Hatred, anger and violence can destroy us, the politics of polarisation is dangerous. These incidents are making millions feel that they have no future in their country.
He also said that the “idea of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ is what has allowed this mass of people (India) to rise together and it is the only idea which can take humanity forward”.
I lost my father, my grandmother to violence, if I don’t understand violence then who will?
"Modi Doesn't Converse With People He Works With"
Commenting on PM Modi’s flagship initiatives and his “certain skills”, Rahul Gandhi said that Modi is a “very good communicator”
He is a very good communicator, much better than me. He knows how to give a message to 3-4 different groups in a crowd, so his messaging ability is very effective and subtle...What I sense is that he doesn’t converse with the people he works with. Even members of parliament and the BJP tell me that.
He added that he “likes” Modi government’s ‘Make in india’ initiative, but would follow a different “orientation”.
‘Make in India’ is about big business and defence. My focus will be on small and medium business enterprises. I’ll bring in experts from the Silicon Valley.
Rahul Gandhi on Dynasty Politics
Speaking of dynasty politics, the Congress scion said “that’s how the country runs”.
When questioned if he would take up the executive role in the Congress ahead of the 2019 general elections, Rahul Gandhi said he is “absolutely ready for it” but will follow the organisational elections that the party follows.
The Congress leader also spoke about the reason for his party's decline.
“Around 2012, arrogance crept into the Congress party and we stopped having conversations with people,” he said.
“For rebuilding the party, we need to design a vision that we can use moving forward. Most of what the BJP is doing, is what we once said,” Gandhi said citing the examples of UPA government schemes MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme) and GST.
"PM Modi Opened Space For Terrorists in J&K"
During a question and answer session after his address, the Congress Vice President said that when the UPA was in power, he had worked with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior Congress leaders like P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh to resolve the problems facing Jammu and Kashmir for nine years.
When we started, terrorism was rampant in Kashmir. When we finished, there was peace, we had broken the back of terrorism...In 2014, the government did something that inflicted a huge strategic cost...The day Prime Minister Modi made an alliance with the PDP (People’s Democrat, he destroyed it as an instruemt which to could bring these youngsters into the political system. He (PM Modi) massively opened up space for the terrorists in Kashmir, and you saw the increase in violence.
He added that Congress government had given the Kashmiri youth a “vision” and employment opportunities.
Walking in His Great Grandfather's Shoes
“He is here at the University of California, Berkley, where Pandit (Jawaharlal Nehru) addressed in 1949 as the Prime Minister. Today, we are at the crossroads where core values of Indian democracy, secularism, and pluralistic society are in danger," Congress spokesman Madhu Goud Yaskhi said.
"He (Rahul Gandhi) strongly believes in these values for India to be a strong nation, and what is the way forward for India and his views and his thoughts about India's future," the spokesman said.
During his trip to the US, he said, Gandhi will also engage with the Indian diaspora with the purpose of making them a part in India's development.
Itinerary Post Berkeley
From San Francisco, Gandhi is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles. He is likely to visit Aspen Institute to interact with the think-tank community.
In Washington DC, the Congress Vice President is scheduled to interact with members of the think-tank community, political leaders and government officials.
Gandhi is also scheduled to travel to Princeton University before his final address to overseas Indians in New York.
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