Turuvekere: As Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor fight it out for the Congress chief’s post, Rahul Gandhi on Saturday described both as people of stature and understanding, and asserted that it was insulting to suggest that either of them can be remote-controlled by the Gandhi family as party president.
Addressing a press conference here during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, he said lakhs of people have joined the yatra as they are tired of the type of politics being done under the BJP and the prevailing unemployment, price rise and economic inequality.
A day after huge investments in Rajasthan, Gandhi, who has often accused the Modi government of favouring the industrialist, said the Congress government in the state has not given any preferential treatment to the businessman, and asserted that he is not against corporates but monopolies.
Asked about criticism from certain quarters that the next Congress president could be remote-controlled by the Gandhi family, the former party chief said, “Both the people who are standing (in the polls) have a position, have a perspective and are people of stature and people of understanding. I don’t think either of them is going to be a remote control (chief) and frankly, this tone is insulting to both of them.”
Asked why he did not contest the polls, Gandhi said his reasons are there in his resignation letter that he gave while quitting the party chief’s post in 2019.
Elections to the Congress president’s post will take place on October 17 and results will be announced on October 19.
Gandhi said by nature he believes in ‘tapasya’ and wanted an element of suffering in this communication to people through the Bharat Jodo Yatra which seeks to cover a distance of about 3,500 km from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on foot.
He also said the party is opposing the new education policy as it is “an attack on the ethos of our country, it distorts our history, culture”.
“We are opposing the policy as it concentrates power in the hands of a few people and centralises the education system. We want a decentralised education system. We want an education system that reflects our history, tradition and languages,” Gandhi added.
Asked about reported infighting in the Congress unit in poll-bound Karnataka, with former chief minister Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar engaged in a tussle, Gandhi said, “We are not a fascist party, we are a party that believes in conversation, we are a party that believes in discussion and we are perfectly happy to have different viewpoints in the party.”
“However, everyone in the party understands that in order to win the (Karnataka assembly) election they have to work together, they have to work as a team and that is exactly what is happening, that is exactly what is going to happen,” he said.
Gandhi said the yatra’s objective was to bring India together and not the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
“India is being divided, violence is being spread into our society, and this is damaging for our country,” he said.
Gandhi said the yatra is aimed at raising three issues — violence and hatred “the BJP-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) are spreading”; the massive concentration of wealth being allowed which is destroying India’s economy and resulting in unemployment; and massive and continuous increase in inflation.
Talking about his yatra experience and the image that has been built of him over the years, the Congress leader said he stands and has always stood for certain ideas and that disturbs the BJP and the RSS.
“Thousands of crores of media money, media energy has been spent on trying to shape me in a way which is just untruthful and wrong. That machine is going to continue, that machine is well oiled and financially rich. My truth is different and has always been different and people who look carefully will see what I stand for and what my truth is,” he said.
“There is a political element to it (yatra) but for me the main purpose of this yatra, I see in the political system a distance that has developed between the political class and our citizens. The idea for me was to go right on the road and go close physically to our people,” Gandhi said.
This is different from going in a car, or plane, or even reaching out in a press conference through the media, he said.
“There’s no effort in this; it’s easy?I am by nature, I believe in tapasya. That has been my family’s nature. I wanted an element of suffering in this communication for myself. I did not want it to be easy. So, I thought, while talking to my people, I can share their suffering. I find that to be a very powerful experience,” Gandhi said.
When one is walking on the road and speaking to people after having suffered a little, communication is better, he said.
“For me, its been a learning experience. But frankly, it hasn’t even begun yet. It’s been only 31 days. I can already see the advantages of this communication” Gandhi said.
On the Centre recently banning the Popular Front of India, he said it doesn’t matter who the person spreading hatred in India is and which community they come from.
Spreading hatred and violence in India is an anti-national act and “we will fight anybody who spreads hatred and violence in this country”, Gandhi asserted.
The former Congress chief also expressed confidence about the party’s victory in the Karnataka assembly elections next year.
He said the Congress has brilliant and complementary leaders in the state, and once the party wins the polls, the decision of selecting the chief minister will be made through a process in the party.
Asked about the industrialist’s presence at a Rajasthan government event and the industrialist pledging investments in the state, Gandhi said,”He has committed Rs 60,000 crore to Rajasthan. No chief minister can refuse such an offer. In fact, it would not be correct for a chief minister to refuse such an offer.”
“My contention is in the use of political power to help certain chosen businesses. My opposition is to two-three or four large businesses being helped politically to monopolise every single business in this country,” he said.
“I am in no way against corporates, I am in no way against business but I am against the complete monopolisation of Indian business because that weakens the country. Today what we are seeing is being done by the BJP government is complete monopolisation of all businesses by helping a chosen few businesses,” Gandhi alleged.
The industrialist has announced a whopping Rs 65,000 crore investment in Rajasthan over the next five to seven years — setting up a 10,000 MW solar power facility, expanding a cement plant, and upgrading the Jaipur International Airport.