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Sonia slams Modi, RSS for communal agenda

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New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a stinging attack on the Narendra Modi government, saying it seeks to whitewash its “communal agenda” by hiding behind the “mask of development”, and also accused the RSS of opposing the Quit India movement.

Sonia Gandhi also attacked the government on price rise at a function to mark the culmination of the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for “intolerance” and said the country cannot be painted in “one colour”.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said secular values of the country were in danger and accused Modi of pursuing “his own interests”.

The event was also attended by senior Congress leaders.

Sonia Gandhi, in a hard-hitting speech, said there were forces today committed to destroying Nehru’s legacy.

“Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi said Nehru’s greatness was in stark contrast to “those so-called nationalists who nowadays go around giving certificates on patriotism”.

“When some individuals attempt to infect our nation with sense of intolerance, prejudice, injustice, communalism, hatred and bigotry his light continues to shine forth and show us the right way, the way out of darkness,” she said.

She said when leaders like Nehru were fighting for our freedom, “the ideological masters of today’s ruling establishment were hiding safely in their homes while some were even singing praises of their British masters”.

“In fact, in 1942 when (Mahatma) Gandhi ji announced the Quit India movement, there were two groups which actively and openly opposed the call. One was responsible for partition and the other is today the remote controller of the ruling establishment,” Sonia Gandhi said, without directly naming the RSS which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.

“It is a historic fact that both these groups instructed their followers to condemn Gandhi ji’s call. No matter how much the government today may wish to erase this past, it is a historical fact,” she added.

She said that for Nehru, democracy rested on the foundation of a debate, a free exchange of ideas.

“Simply because someone holds a different view or disagrees, they cannot be branded a traitor. It is a form of tyranny. Seeing the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance, we are reminded all the more of Nehru ji’s days when any citizen could speak his mind, his mann ki baat — a phrase which has nowadays been reduced to being the name of a radio broadcast,” she said.

Noting that Nehru was synonymous with laying the foundation of India’s growth, she said the Modi government seeks to use development as a buzzword but fails to take lessons from Nehru’s legacy.

“Today, we are witnessing attempts by certain individuals and elements to whitewash their communal agenda in front of the world by hiding it behind the mask of development,” she said.

She said Nehru oversaw setting up of several art and cultural centres but these were being reduced to a “joke”.

“Several eminent writers and scholars who were felicitated by the government are now returning their awards as a form of protest.”

She said members of the ruling party were quick to remind the common man what to eat and what not to eat, but have little advice to offer “those people who are forced to buy dal at Rs.200 a kg”.

Rahul Gandhi said the BJP and the RSS want everyone to sing in one tune.

“The BJP and the RSS think they know everything and don’t like to be questioned but the truth is, if they knew everything, ‘acche din’ (good times) would have come (by now),” he said.

Targeting Modi, he said the prime minister was asked by the media to comment on the issue of intolerance during his visit to Britain.

The Congress has been raising the pitch against the government over incidents such as lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of eating beef and had met President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this month to convey its concern over “rising intolerance”.

(IANS)

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As The Election Nears, India’s Opposition Promises Several Economic Steps

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a "desperate alliance," while the BJP would give a "strong government."

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Rahul Gandhi, Election
Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Congress Party, speaks at a rally ahead of October's 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

India’s main opposition Congress Party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and make “rational economic decisions” to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, leader Rahul Gandhi said Saturday.

Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia’s third-largest economy.

But its chaotic implementation and complexities — months after a shock ban by Modi on high-value bank currency aimed at unearthing untaxed wealth — badly hurt small businesses and led to millions of job losses in the cash-driven economy, presenting the biggest challenge to Modi’s re-election chances.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said during a visit to Dubai that foreign investment was at a multiyear low in India because of the “ill-advised and badly thought out economic moves” such as the currency ban and a “poorly designed GST.”

Quick growth promised

“We will take some rational economic decisions,” he told a press conference, which was broadcast live on Twitter. “We will restructure the GST and we will embrace investments from the Middle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of [India’s economic] liberalization; we are the party that gave the fastest economic growth in the first decade of the century, and will do that again.”

He said his main priority would be to create jobs, simplify the GST, rebuild confidence in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India — whose governor resigned recently after a fight over autonomy with the government, and the Supreme Court.

Modi, election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

 

Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press conference early last year, saying that “unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Modi told a BJP convention in New Delhi on Saturday that for Congress “every institution was wrong and only they were right.”

The Congress press conference was organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, which is present in about 35 countries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich Indians living abroad for funds and social media support for the party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades before being nearly decimated in the last general election in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi received a jolt when bitter rivals, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), announced an election tie-up without Congress in Uttar Pradesh state, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament.

Narendra Modi, India, election
Elaborate preparations for PM’s election rally. VOA

“The BSP and SP have made a political decision,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh and we will fight with our full capacity. Whether we do or their alliance does, the BJP is not winning there.”

Also Read:China, India Keen on Joint Ventures For e-vehicles

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a “desperate alliance,” while the BJP would give a “strong government.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP lost power in three key states recently, forcing the government to announce a flurry of measures to woo small businesses and the less well-off since then. (VOA)