Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has continued his criticism of the country’s leadership, calling for Indians in the US and back home to stand up for democracy and the Indian constitution. Speaking at the Indian Overseas Congress USA event, Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharativa Janata Party (BJP) of dividing the country and failing to focus on critical issues such as unemployment and education. He called for a stronger partnership between India and the US to offset China’s influence, saying, “One of the things we have to think about is the bridge between India and the United States. How do we compete with the challenge that the Chinese have placed on the table?”
Gandhi has been on a three-city tour of the United States, which included speaking engagements at Stanford University in California and the National Press Club in Washington, DC. He has been calling for India to stand up against what he sees as dangerous policies of the BJP, including the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). “To be nasty to people, to be arrogant, to be violent, these are not Indian values,” he said.
Gandhi, who is a member of the Indian National Congress party, said: “Modern India cannot exist without our constitution and our democracy”. He is considered to be Modi’s main challenger in the upcoming 2024 elections. However, Gandhi suffered a significant setback in March when a court convicted him in a criminal defamation case for mocking Modi’s surname, a decision that led to him being expelled from parliament. The conviction came in connection with a speech he gave in 2019. He could lose his eligibility to run for a parliamentary seat for the next eight years if an appeals court doesn’t overturn his conviction.
Despite this setback, the Congress Party has shown some strength recently, defeating the BJP in state elections in the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka states. The wins came after a series of state election defeats since Modi became India’s prime minister in 2014. While Gandhi now holds no official position in his party, his supporters hope the more recent results will impact the country’s 2024 national elections, which are likely to be held before May.
US congressional leaders have invited Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress later in September. The House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders announced the address as an “opportunity to share your vision for India’s future and speak to the global challenges our countries both face”. It is unclear whether Modi will accept the invitation, as it comes at a time when relations between India and the US have been strained over trade and diplomatic issues.
Gandhi’s speeches have focused on the need to preserve democracy in India. He believes that the country is moving towards an authoritarian state where individual freedoms and rights are being eroded. This sentiment resonates with many Indians who feel that Modi’s policies are threatening their religious, social and economic freedoms. Amid concerns over a declining economy and rising unemployment, Gandhi is urging Modi to refocus his efforts on creating jobs and improving access to education.
Speaking about the recent train derailment in eastern India that killed 275 people and injured hundreds more, Gandhi expressed his condolences and observed a minute of silence. He also invoked the name of the assassinated Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, several times during his speech, praising his model of non-violence. “To be nasty to people, to be arrogant, to be violent, these are not Indian values,” he said.
Gandhi’s speeches in the US are seen as a platform to highlight some of the issues he has with the Modi government. The BJP rejects his accusations, saying they are baseless and that Modi’s policies have brought significant change to the country. As India continues its journey towards becoming a global superpower, the upcoming 2024 national elections will be critical in determining what kind of political future the country wants. For now, Gandhi’s message is clear: preserving democracy and individual freedoms is essential to India’s progress.
Rahul Gandhi’s US Speech Attracts Former Modi Supporters and Highlights Indian Unity
As Rahul Gandhi concluded his tribute to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) at New York’s Javits Convention Center, the enthusiastic audience of over 2,000 people responded with affection, reciprocating the Congress leader’s sentiment. In a lighthearted moment, Gandhi asked, “Do you ever hear anyone say ‘I love you’ at BJP rallies?”
Gandhi’s speech aimed to appeal to NRIs by connecting their success in the US to the ongoing ideological clash in India. He attributed the accomplishments of Indian immigrants in the US to their humility, lack of arrogance, and willingness to embrace the diverse culture of their host country, declaring them ambassadors of India.
According to Gandhi, the current conflict in India can be summarized as a struggle “between Gandhi and Godse.” He praised Mahatma Gandhi, saying, “Gandhiji was an NRI like you, humble, simple, one who believed in India, in her future… That’s the ideology we follow.” Conversely, he described Godse as “angry, violent, unable to face reality,” and someone who targeted “the man who represented the essence of India.”
Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, highlighted the humility and simplicity of India’s greatest leaders, mentioning figures from various states such as Basavanna from Karnataka, Narayana Guru from Kerala, and Guru Nanak from Punjab. He also discussed the significant role of NRIs in India’s history, including leaders like Nehru and Patel, and claimed that the “Indian independence movement started in South Africa.”
Gandhi criticized the BJP and RSS for being “incapable of looking at the future” and continually blaming the Congress for past issues. Using an analogy, he asked, “Would you be able to drive if you constantly looked at the rearview mirror?” He contrasted this approach with the Congress party’s willingness to take responsibility for mistakes.
Expressing a desire to visit more cities in the US next time, Gandhi emphasized the importance of maintaining a relationship with the NRI community and understanding their concerns. He stated, “I’m not interested in doing mann ki baat,” which was met with laughter from the audience.
Addressing the issue of violence in India, Gandhi claimed it was not an Indian value but had become a new trend to “express Indianness by being hateful, by beating others.” However, he remained optimistic, citing the thousands who still believed in the idea of India and the support he witnessed among NRIs.
The diverse audience at the Javits Center represented a microcosm of India, with people from various backgrounds expressing their hope that Rahul would become the next prime minister and restore the country’s secular character. One attendee, Tom George Kollath, shared his perspective: “If someone prevents me from worshipping my god and eating what I like in my own country, I see it as a violation of my fundamental rights.”
Many attendees at the event were traditional Congress supporters, like Amrik Singh Pehowa, who identified himself as a “3rd generation Congressi.” Others, such as Vijay Reddy, acknowledged the Congress’s role in India’s independence and technological development under Rajiv Gandhi, which enabled numerous Indians to come to the US.
Interestingly, several individuals at the gathering revealed that they had once been Modi supporters. What changed their minds was the perceived centralization of power. Jagadeeshan from Telangana humorously recalled chanting “Modi, Modi” during the Prime Minister’s visit to the USA, but now believes, “A democracy cannot mean the rule of just two people.”
Vijay Reddy also shared his disappointment with Modi’s policies, viewing them as anti-farmer and feeling “cheated” by the sale of Indian assets. Anirudh Parupalli, a master’s student from Telangana, expressed concern about the growing privatization of public sector enterprises, mounting debt, and increasing poverty under the current government.
Ganesh Gandam, another attendee, highlighted unemployment as a significant issue that the present administration is not addressing. Interestingly, none of these Hindu attendees were enthusiastic about the rising saffronization of Indian politics. Reddy emphasized the importance of constitutional equality, stating that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra demonstrated his ability to achieve unity and inclusiveness in India.