Whether Rafale or Mallya and Nirav or employment scene, Congress president brings up the Prime Minister’s name
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “unpatriotic” for misusing public anger over the country’s “job problem”.
Reiterating a theme that has run through his interactions during his visit to the U.K. and Germany, Mr. Gandhi drew parallels between Mr. Modi, U.S. President Donald Trump and other “populist” leaders.
“Instead of calming this anger, instead of telling this anger, ‘Yes we have a problem; we are going to work together to fix it’, Mr. Modi does something very unpatriotic … he takes that anger and utilises it for himself and damages our country,” Mr. Gandhi said.
“Neither the Western world nor India is able to solve its crisis for the blue collar part of society and that is what Mr. Modi rides on,” the Congress chief told a meeting of the Indian Journalist Association.
He accused “senior BJP leaders” of meeting business tycoon Vijay Mallya before he left the country in February 2016. “He did meet them … I won’t name them,” he said, when asked about his assessment of the handling of the attempt to extradite Mr. Mallya to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering. “They are pretty lenient with these people,” he said. “Nirav Modi took off with ₹35,000 crore, Choksi took off and strangely, when the government of the country sent a notice to the Indian government, the Indian government didn’t really respond … there are relationships between Nirav Modi, Choksi, and the Prime Minister and these relationships come in the middle of justice.” Mr. Gandhi reiterated his accusation that the government had failed to adequately handle the Doklam standoff. “You do realise that Chinese troops are still in Doklam…,” he said, adding that they had built “massive infrastructure” there.
He attacked the Prime Minister for failing to properly address the issue in the recent dialogue with China. “He went recently to China and did not discuss Doklam. They had a conversation without an agenda … a non-agenda conversation … somebody comes in, slaps you across the face and you have a non-agenda conversation.
Despite explanatory letters sent by Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani, Congress president Rahul Gandhi continued to raise questions about the Rafale fighter contract on his trip to London, as he accused the media in India of failing to pick up on the issue.
Mr. Gandhi used a discussion with students hosted by the London School of Economics (LSE) South Asia Centre, to raise questions about the contract’s terms.
“HAL [Hindustan Aeronautics Limited] has by far the best experience in building aircraft in India for 70 years…our government signed a contract with Dassault and gave the contract to HAL…The price we were paying was approximately ₹520 crore a plane. Then something happened. Prime Minister Modi went to France, changed the contract from 126 planes to 36 planes, changed the pricing structure from ₹520 crore to ₹1,600 crore and magically Mr. Anil Ambani was given the contract,” he said, when asked a question about fighting corruption in India.
“Mr. Anil Ambani is ₹45 crore in debt; Mr. Anil Ambani has never made a plane in his life and the company that got the contract for one of the biggest defence contracts in the world was formed …one week before that contract was signed….,” Mr Gandhi said.
Throughout his trip, Mr. Gandhi launched attacks directed at the prime minister personally contrasting his own willingness to answer questions including from the press, with the Prime Minister’s approach. “Come at me on whatever questions you want and then judge what I am,” in response to a question about his family’s political legacy. “The Prime Minister of India struggles to have this type of conversation. He can’t sit here… he has never done it.”
Mr. Gandhi has held meetings with senior Labour Party politicians, including the party’s shadow ministers on trade and Brexit.
On Saturday, he launched a working group of medical professionals and experts from the U.K. and Europe, which will over the next six months create a blueprint for an affordable healthcare system for India.
He also elaborated on the parallel he drew between the RSS and the Muslim Brotherhood, stating that both organisations had been born in the 1920s, both believed in “institutional capture,” particularly via elections, and neither allowed women. There were “tremendous similarities,” he insisted.
Asked about how the leadership of any coalition would be decided were they to succeed in the 2019 election he said that conversations on leadership would happen after the election. “The RSS is threatening the institutional order of India…we are defending that line and nothing is going to come between us and defending that line.”