Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking in Dubai, criticising his handling of the economy, institutions and the Rafale fighter jet deal. Asked about overtures made by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, he also spelled out his view on ties with the country. "I'm all for having a peaceful relationship with Pakistan, but I will not tolerate violence being carried out against innocent Indians," he said at an interaction with the press in the UAE city.
He asserted that a Congress government at the Centre will adopt a tough line on the neighbouring state. "You cannot carry out acts of terror in India and expect India to talk kindly to you," he said.
Mr Gandhi then went on to claim that PM Modi was weakening India by "strangling" its institutions. "The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh thinks that the people's voice is irrelevant. There is a massive response from bureaucrats and institutions who say we are not going to accept this, and this will be one of the main reasons for our victory in the 2019 elections," he said.
The priority of the moment, according to the Congress president, is to replace a central government that's failing on all fronts. "We will start doing what the Congress party has successfully done -- put India on the path to economic progress. At present, there is massive unemployment in the country and Modiji's irresponsible and rash decision to impose demonetisation on the people did not help. He was directly responsible for the decimation of informal sector."
Mr Gandhi claimed that "ill-advised" economic policies such as the notes ban and the Goods and Services Tax had vitiated the atmosphere, bringing about a 14-year slump in investments. "They broke many promises. We, on the other hand, promised to waive farm loans in 10 days and did it in two. Likewise, we will do everything to give special status to Andhra Pradesh," he said.
The Congress chief reiterated his charges against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale controversy. "Nobody can hide from the truth, and neither can our Prime Minister," he said, citing former French President Francois Hollande's remark on being forced to award the offset contract to Reliance Defence. "Everybody knows what happened with the fighter jet deal. Modiji helped Mr Ambani steal Rs 30,000 crore. I am yet to receive an answer to the question whether defence ministry officials had objected to the Prime Minister bypassing the Rafale deal."