Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accused the BJP of trying to create a ‘hyper nationalistic environment’ ahead of the Lok Sabha polls only to distract people from the issues of unemployment, agrarian crisis and what he called ‘massive failures’ of the Modi government.
The comments by Gandhi come against the backdrop of indications that the BJP may use the Indian Air Force (IAF) strikes on terror group JeM’s largest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26 after the Pulwama attack as a central plank of its election campaign.
A JeM suicide bomber attacked a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 killing 40 jawans.
Describing the upcoming elections as all about making a choice between India of Mahatma Gandhi and that of his assassin Nathuram Godse, Rahul Gandhi also alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi generates ‘hate’ and that his brand of politics was ‘hateful’ with consequent costs.
In Gandhi’s view, a majority for the Congress-led UPA coalition is a certainty and that his party will do much better than expected. The Congress’s tally of 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls was an all-time low for the party.
“The hyper nationalistic environment the BJP is trying to create, where anyone who disagrees with the BJP is branded anti-national, is only to distract from the issues of unemployment, agrarian crisis, violence and the massive failures of the government on practically every front,” Gandhi told ‘The Week’ magazine in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
The BJP has criticised opposition parties for demanding evidence for the impact of the airstrikes on the camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) while its president Amit Shah said the IAF’s operation showed that India is “secure under the strong and decisive leadership” of Modi.
Gandhi answered questions on topics ranging from the controversial Rafale jet deal and the state of the economy to the focus of the Congress manifesto and emergence of a grand opposition alliance to take on the BJP.
The Congress chief claimed that the Rafale deal is the “tip of an iceberg” and that actually what Modi has done is that he has systematically handed over massive amount of defence funds to his friends.
“And you will see, this stuff will come out, sooner rather than later, hopefully. But this is not just one deal that we are talking about. There are multiple deals where we suspect that this has happened. But again no investigation, questions,” he said.
Stating that the job situation and agriculture are in tremendous crisis, Gandhi said one can’t have a country that is divided, which is full of hate, and get the levels of economic growth that the country requires to generate a huge number of jobs.
“Mr Modi generates hate. So his mechanism of politics is hateful. And that has its costs.”
To a question on the Congress’ promise of minimum income guarantee being touted as a game changer, Gandhi said he does not think that this alone has the power to transform the country, but under the current circumstances and the level of pain India is feeling, it is a requirement.
“It’s an idea on an unimaginable scale that we have been working on for a long time now. The idea is that no Indian should live below a certain income level,” he added.
Gandhi said going beyond minimum income guarantee would mean tackling the job crisis on a war footing.
“We have some interesting ideas in our manifesto on entrepreneurship and how we will treat small and medium industries and the type of freedom we will give them. To transform India we also have to free the financial institutions from the clutches of crony capitalists,” he said.
On his prime ministerial prospects if all goes well for the Congress, Gandhi said it is for the country to decide whether he will get the top post but asserted his job right now is to make sure that the ideological fight against BJP that is going on now is won by ‘the Uniters’.
“Broadly .. the entire coalition is standing against Mr. Narendra Modi and the BJP. And we have an understanding with our partners in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam. Those alliances are firmed up,” he said.
Asked about the BJP’s assessment that voting the party out will lead to chaos, economic deceleration and weakness in national security, Gandhi said the idea that Modi is imposing order on India is ‘ridiculous’.
“I don’t understand how demonetisation was imposing order, when it was absolute buffoonery....Imposing a five-tiered GST on India, what type of order are you talking about? We don’t want that order.”
Admitting that the previous UPA government was unable to do enough to resolve the job crisis, Gandhi said what Modi has done is to aggravate the situation by introducing demonetisation and the GST and allowing industrialist Anil Ambani style ‘crony capitalism’ to run rampant.
“The country is looking for leadership, but what it gets are inane, meaningless slogans from the PM - Make in India, Startup India, these are the expressions of a man bankrupt of ideas,” he said.
Gandhi alleged that Modi takes India’s most negative aspects, fear, hatred and anger and magnifies them, while Mahatma Gandhi took our most powerful aspects, love compassion and non-violence and magnified them.
“On one side, you have the idea of Godse, that if you don’t like something you put three bullets in its chest and on the other, you have the idea of Gandhiji, where even if someone puts three bullets in your chest you won’t hate them.
“This is the greatness of our country and this is what this election is about. This is not a personal battle, I have no animosity towards the PM, but see him as an expression of India’s weaknesses, anger and hatred,” he said.