Cong dares PM to debate with Rahul

The Congress on Wednesday dismissed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech as hollow rhetoric and dared him to debate vital issues like corruption, the economy, jobs and foreign policy with Rahul Gandhi.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 16.08.18
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Rahul at the Congress office on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday dismissed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech as hollow rhetoric and dared him to debate vital issues like corruption, the economy, jobs and foreign policy with Rahul Gandhi.

The party's communications chief, Randeep Surjewala, said: "Modi's last speech on Independence Day has proved to be hollow rhetoric. There was neither substance (to) the speech, nor any explanations on the vital concerns of the country. He won't speak the truth but he should have at least reflected on the people's feelings in his last outing at the Red Fort as Prime Minister."

Surjewala added: "The Prime Minister didn't utter a word on corruption - on the Rafale deal, on Vyapam, the PDS scam in Chhattisgarh... etc. He didn't refer to the Chinese incursions in Doklam and other areas. He also avoided speaking on the atmosphere of hate, the conspiracy to divide society, the violence over caste and religion. There is so much discord, tension in society but the Prime Minister didn't give any assurance."

The Prime Minister is not expected to refer to scams, though his predecessors have talked about transparency and probity in public life from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

But the Congress is determined to bring corruption, particularly the Rafale deal and alleged scams in election-bound states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, on the table.

The Congress-led UPA government had grappled with corruption charges before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but Modi's image is largely untainted despite the allegations.

Surjewala said: "On Independence Day in 2013, Modi had dared the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to debate issues like corruption, relations with China and Pakistan, the falling rupee and the economy, farmers, jobs and the general cynicism in the country.

"Today we ask him if he is ready to debate the same issues with Rahul Gandhi. We challenge him to debate these issues and the atmosphere of hatred and lynching. Will you debate the crimes against women and even terrorism?"

On Modi's claim that India had woken up and was ready to guide the world, Surjewala said: "Let the Prime Minister not insult India and India's entrepreneurial spirit. Let the Prime Minister on Independence Day not undermine Indians' contribution to the world over the last 70 years.

"Let the Prime Minister not underestimate the spirit of India, the spirit which has given India a sense of purpose and a place of pride among nations. It has not happened in the last four years. India was always a power that the world reckoned with."

Surjewala added: "Let's not undermine the spirit of India, the strength of India, the resilience of India, the spirituality of India, the composite culture and the pluralist culture of this country. The Prime Minister's statement of this nature is myopic, parochial and uncalled for on a day like Independence Day."

Responding to questions on Modi's new promises and dream of making India resurgent, Surjewala said: "Modiji talks a lot and makes promises in hordes. He offers new schemes without delivering on the old ones. When you seek accountability, he diverts attention through communal rhetoric; his politics is to divide people. But one leader cannot change the character of the country. This country is built on love and compassion, tolerance and co-existence, and will remain so."