Rahul Gandhi: We will emerge from fire nicer, wiser
A question about global concern over the erosion of democracy in India drew a blunt response from Rahul Gandhi: “Not eroding, it is being strangled.”
Rahul made the assertion in the course of his online conversation with Kaushik Basu, former chief economic adviser to the Government of India and now professor of economics at Cornell University in the US, on Tuesday.
Basu referred to global concern over erosion of democracy in India, with the space for media, public debate and dissent shrinking and asked about Rahul’s views. Basu said muzzling of debate was a great concern as India was once considered one of the top countries in terms of freedom of speech.
Rahul responded bluntly, in a manner that is typical of him: “It is much deeper than muzzling of debate. Muzzling of debate is one of the elements. The RSS is systematically attacking the institutions. Judiciary, media, bureaucracy, Election Commission are being filled with people of one ideology. It is not eroding, it is strangling. I didn’t realise how profound it is till I faced it…. It is a full-scale assault on democracy.”
The former Congress president contended that the entire Opposition was fighting to protect India, not for power. He said: “Before 2014, we were fighting for power. The game has changed now. What is India? It is a negotiation. We agreed on a free and fair fight for power. There is no free and fair fight now.”
He added: “But this is the best opportunity that India could have ever got to learn, to understand its weaknesses, to emerge stronger. India has to go through the fire to transform itself. There is going to be a cost. We will bear the cost. We will emerge nicer, wiser, more compassionate.”
He explained the nature of threat — both social and political — by contending that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ensured large funds were available with the RSS for penetration of institutions.
He said that while the RSS was free to do whatever it wanted with education, with bureaucracy and with other institutions with the enormous funds, the same capitalists provided political cover to Modi using their media. “Beyond the bluster, what the RSS is doing is reinforce the concept of caste in India. It is reorganising society to show people their places — that the Dalit has this place, the Sikhs this place, women have this place.”
To a question about internal democracy in the Congress party, Rahul said: “You are asking this to a person who was pushing for internal elections for a decade. I got serious beating from my party and the media for holding elections in the Youth Congress. But why is this question not asked of other parties — the BJP, BSP, the Samajwadi Party… etc? I am fine with it.
It is more important for us to be democratic because our ideological formulation is ideology of the Constitution.”
Asked about the Emergency, he said: “That was a mistake. My grandmother said it was a mistake. But the situation today is fundamentally different. The Congress never attempted to capture the institutional framework. The RSS is filling institutions with its people. If the BJP loses, we won’t be able to remove the RSS people from all institutions.”
Discussing foreign policy, he lamented that India did not have a strategy and said: “The whole debate in India is what happened 300 years ago.
There is memory and there is imagination. India is stuck in memory. China has imagination. We may not like it but it has a global strategy. Even in America, the (Donald) Trump slogan was — ‘Let us make America great again’. That was looking backwards. That means a failure has taken place.”
Rahul cited the massive concentration of capital, demonetisation and the attack on agriculture as the primary reasons for the economic collapse.