(Piyush Goyal is a member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and national treasurer of Bharatiya Janata Party)
It was a rare privilege to hear Rahul Gandhi speak during a television interview yesterday. I call it a privilege, given his darshan is rather hard to get even for his own party men, and even in Parliament - his attendance record is an abysmal 42%.
Even on the days he is present, he is conspicuously absent for large parts of the day - case in point, the Budget on 28th February last year. He neither participated in any significant debate, sans one (albeit orchestrated) nor asked any question in the last five years.
In the entire interview, Rahul Gandhi did not articulate his views on even a single economic issue or his vision to generate jobs and working opportunities to empower the youth and women, to whom he paid lip-service repeatedly.
It was deeply depressing and distressing to see the leader of India's oldest party displaying shocking levels of ignorance (or was it delusion?) and exhibiting utter lack of comprehension to most, if not all, of the questions posed. At some level, we are fortunate that he has only been running the party and not the country. Rahul Gandhi yesterday replaced Manmohan Singh as the chief mascot of the 'Modi for PM' campaign.
It appears as if he had been supplied with a set of five answers which he chose between, irrespective of what the question was. While he kept reverting to these 5 themes ("women's empowerment", "changing the system", "fundamental issues of the country", "RTI", "deepening democracy"), the record of his own government falls way behind the platitudinous "motherhood apple-pie" statements. His words were short on facts and long on rhetoric.
He spoke about 'deepening democracy' - is that why nearly 40% of all MPs from Congress are dynasts, as per an analysis by Patrick French? I would not mind if these scions of political families had risen through the ranks on the basis of performance and merit, as some may well have, but a majority of these dynasts have been implanted on top and have inherited their parents' seats. His so-called 'experiment' in 'internal democracy' in the Youth Congress, was only to ensure that children of senior Congressmen muscled their way through to the top posts, probably leaving behind genuine aspirants and party-workers, as was the case in my own state of Maharashtra. The gap between his words and actions is stark.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Rahul Gandhi has been working behind the scenes, and reports to the Prime Minister. He spoke about making India a manufacturing hub - but the fact remains that the share of manufacturing in GDP has been declining, and the UPA's job creation record has been deplorable (2.7 million jobs in 2005-10 by UPA vs 60.7 million jobs in 2000-05 by NDA, as per data from Planning Commission).
Is he even aware that the price of food has gone up by 157%, vegetables by 350% and onions by 521%, between 2004 and 2013? Can he name three concrete steps his government has taken to combat food inflation over the last five years (expressing hope of a turnaround and appeals for divine intervention do not count)? How does he plan to end the policy paralysis and flip-flops which have brought the investment cycle to a grinding halt?
I found his words on corruption rather amusing. On the one hand, his party claims credit for bringing in the Lokpal and RTI to tackle corruption, but on the other, they go out of their way to shield their party-men whenever a scam is unearthed. The nation hung its head in shame when at the stroke of midnight during the Lokpal debate in 2011, one of the Congress' long-term allies stalled the debate in a reprehensible manner. In the interview, he was silent on the fact that the head of the same ally has been convicted in the fodder scam! He chose to use laudatory words instead to describe the unholy alliance and branded it an 'idea'.
Here is a man who has neither displayed any competence nor interest in transforming the country. He has been a beneficiary of the very 'system' which he derides. He is a symptom of the malaise that has pervaded top levels of Congress party and the government. He has, perhaps inadvertently, pointed to the failures of his family and his party, which has ruled India for most part since independence. If today millions of Indians are still desperately poor, the common man is burdened with back-breaking inflation, the youth is staring into a sea of despondency and women think twice before stepping out during the evenings, one family and one party is singularly responsible.
Rahul Gandhi, through the interview, has thoroughly indicted his own party and his government. He has strengthened our case for a 'Congress Mukt Bharat'!
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Story First Published: January 28, 2014 19:58 IST