Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would even explain to God how the universe works, drawing laughter and applause from a gathering of people of Indian origin in California, before making the point that such know-all arrogance comes from mediocrity.
In Santa Clara on the first day of his six-day tour of the US, Rahul said: “The world is too big, too complicated for any one person to think that he understands everything.... We have a group of people in India who are absolutely convinced that they know everything. They think, maybe, they know more than God. They could sit down with God and explain to him about what is going on. And of course, our Prime Minister is one such specimen.”
As ripples of laughter swept through the audience, the Congress leader said: “If you sat Modiji down next to God, Modiji would start explaining to God how the universe works.”
Amid loud applause, a voice from the audience was heard saying: “And God would get confused.”
Rahul continued: “Yes, and God would get confused — that what have I created! These are funny things but this is what is going on. We have a group of people who understand everything. They can speak to scientists and explain science to them. They can speak to historians and explain history to them. They can explain warfare to the army, flying to the air force.
“At the heart of it is mediocrity. That they actually don’t understand anything.”
Loud applause followed.
Rahul went on: “Because in life, you can’t understand anything if you are not ready to listen.”
Rahul added: “The biggest lesson I learnt from the Bharat Jodo Yatra is — there is something to learn from everybody. That’s the Indian tradition. Our country has the ability to absorb any idea that comes. That’s the India we like. India that respects the world, India that is humble, India that listens, India that’s affectionate.”
He told the people present at the meeting: “That’s the India you represent. You would not be here if you didn’t believe in those values. If you believed in anger, hatred and arrogance you would be sitting in a BJP meeting. And I would be doing Mann Ki Baat. Thank you very much for holding up the Indian flag in America, for showing the Americans what it means to be Indian, respecting them, learning from their culture and allowing them to learn from you. We are proud of you. When America says Indian people are extremely intelligent, Indian people are masters of IT, Indian people are respectful… all these ideas have come because of you and your behaviour.”
This was Rahul’s intervention to correct the perception that the Indian diaspora wholeheartedly supports Modi as demonstrated in the loud reception the Prime Minister receives abroad. By stressing that Indians believe in pluralism, Indians are humble and believe in cultural assimilation, Rahul is trying to send out the message that the majority of Indians living abroad don’t believe in bigotry and communalism.
Rahul is now seriously competing for the NRI space, reminding them that their decision to stay in a foreign country was a sign of liberalism and the willingness to adjust to different cultures. That’s what secular democratic space demands from citizens which the RSS-BJP is opposed to.
Rahul has also shown the mirror to the sections that passionately support Modi’s politics, subtly questioning their hypocrisy of endorsing the majoritarian project while they themselves were the beneficiaries of liberal politics.
Modi is not known for his belief in collective leadership and consensual politics. He ridiculed economists to justify the demonetisation, he advised the Indian Air Force to take care of cloud cover for a surgical strike in Pakistan, he often gives sermons on history, he talked of gas being extracted from nullahs, and has dismissed concerns about climate change and global warming.
Responding to a question, Rahul said: “The BJP can’t discuss real issues like unemployment, price rise, the spread of hatred, price of education and health care. That’s why they have to do the whole sceptre (sengol) thing, lying down and all that.”
As the audience cheered, he asked: “Aren’t you happy I am not lying down?”
He was referring to the Prime Minister lying down in front of the sengol and installing it in the new Parliament building.
Asked about the threat to Muslims, Rahul argued there was no need to be pessimistic because the majority of Indians were opposed to divisive politics and the current phase of oppression would be fought. He said that although Muslims felt very strongly because they were being oppressed directly, all minorities and Dalits were facing similar oppression.
Insisting that the philosophy of hate will be defeated by affection, he said: “Most Indians don’t believe in hate. A small group of people who got control of the system and the media and who are supported by big money were responsible for this. This is not the large mass of Indian people.”
He also said what was shown by the media wasn’t the reality, arguing that the media created a particular narrative to help the BJP.