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Rahul Gandhi’s Speech at CII: An Exercise in Futility

Rahul Gandhi’s façade as a prime ministerial aspirant is disintegrating rapidly. His first public speaking foray in nearly a decade of political life only served to lay bare his inadequacies as a leader.

In spite of the bravado exhibited by sycophants, Rahul Gandhi, in his speech at the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) meet, displayed an amazing ignorance regarding the international and domestic issues confronting India.

Scion of the Nehru –Gandhi dynasty which has ruled India for a major period since its independence, Rahul is considered a prime minister-in-waiting by loyalists.

In 2004, Rahul’s mother and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, Sonia nominated Manmohan Singh instead of herself taking over the reins of the country. Sonia cleverly manipulated the liability of her Italian origin into an asset by pretending self-abnegation and nominating Manmohan, a political non entity. Though sycophants waxed eloquent about her ‘sacrifice,’ it was evident that a regent had been nominated to keep the throne secure for Rahul.

Rahul was supposed to simply step up to the plate when he gained politically maturity. He has however proved to be a disappointment. Bereft of any political moorings, he and his coterie have led the Congress into repeated electoral debacles. But as is the wont with dynastic politics, his leadership remains unchallenged in the party.

Rahul’s spin doctors made a clever attempt at the CII conference to portray him as an opposition leader who had an inexhaustible list of questions and suggestions for taking India forward. Evidently, the rising discontent against the egregious governance of UPA has sent alarm bells ringing in the Congress party. The desperate desire to distance Rahul from the Manmohan government is a confirmation of the fact that he will lead the party’s charge in the 2014 general elections. .

The CII speech has confirmed that apart from a new speech writer, Rahul urgently requires a crash course in realism.

His ignorance about the reasons behind the rapidly increasing chasm between the economic development of India and its perennial adversary China was startling.

Rahul referred to China as a “simple place,” perhaps alluding to the fact that China’s growth can only be attributed to it being a one party state, as opposed to the complexities of a multi-party Indian democracy. To buttress his argument, he narrated an incident witnessed by an Italian friend during a visit to China. The Italian friend’s bus hit a man. The driver, recalled Rahul from his friend’s version, “picked up the man, put him on the side of the road and carried on.” Therefore, Rahul inferred, “there is no complexity there (China).”

He could do well to look around his neighborhood in New Delhi, where hit and run cases are a common phenomenon, going largely unpunished. In China, the driver at least put the man on the side of the road!

In December 2012, a young student was brutally gang raped in a moving bus in the heart of New Delhi. The protesting youth demanding better security for women in New Delhi were assaulted by the police, just hours after they had met Rahul and his mother Sonia, demanding their intervention in the matter.

So much so for complexity and simplicity!

Rahul’s decision to trivialize the reasons behind China’s growth was perhaps an aversion to accept the reasons for the economic quagmire the UPA government has led India into.

The GDP growth in India has been steadily declining, with the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) predicting the GDP growth rate for 2012-13 falling to 5.0% from 6.2% from the previous year. The Rupee has depreciated by 20% during the past three years and the current account deficit is at a record high of 6.7%.The manufacturing sector has been in the red for some time with figures for cumulative growth during April-December 2012-13 over the corresponding period of 2011-12 being -0.7%. Other economic parameters narrate a similar sorry tale.

The reasons for this economic disaster do not require an economic genius to decipher. The diarchy which was created with Sonia being the UPA chairman and Manmohan as prime minister resulted in the decision making powers remaining with Sonia. Sonia in a desperate urge to ensure a smooth anointment of Rahul, resorted to populist measures through the unconstitutional National Advisory Council (NAC).

The UPA’s flagship scheme of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) which guarantees providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment every year was considered as the totem which won the UPA a second term in 2009. The scheme which ostensibly provides employment to the rural poorest has also become a symbol of populism. This economic populism is bleeding the Indian economy.

The government has spent Rs.17, 00,000 crores (312.26 billion US$) on MGNREGA since its launch in 2005. According to the NSS 2009-10 data, only one fifth of this amount has reached the intended beneficiaries in the form of wages. The remaining amount has been pilfered away by politicians, bureaucrats and middle men. Government statistics indicate that over 50% of the 151 lakhs work started under the scheme till 2010-11 remain incomplete. Money which could be utilized for creation of infrastructure and job opportunities has been frittered away to encourage corruption and profligacy, in return for a political windfall. 

India and China had similar social indicators in 1947 as both the countries had been ravaged by Imperialistic powers for centuries. The United Nations Human Development Report indicates that gradually China has also surged ahead on social indicators with Chinese life expectancy at 73.7 years as compared to India’s 65.8 years. Similarly, adult literacy in China is 94% against India’s 74%.

The allusion to development of China resulting from ‘one party’ governance is cliché.

India itself has been ruled by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty or its proxies for 58 years after independence in 1947. If Chinese growth is attributed to ‘one party’ rule, then Rahul should introspect on the failure of the ‘family ’to provide governance and vision to India.

Perhaps the business tycoons who were busy applauding his naïve theory could have enlightened Rahul on their reasons to desert India and invest in China. But candidness has become a casualty to the proclivity of the Indian businessmen to cuddle up to the dynasty for their selfish motives.

Rahul’s disconnect with the Indian reality manifested itself when he narrated the story of “Girish, the carpenter,” whom he befriended in a train journey from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai. Rahul’s apathetic and insensitive approach towards the socio-economic problem of forced migration from rural hinterland devoid of any opportunities to a metropolis and “Girish, the carpenter’s” rat hole existence there, has become the norm for the politicians.  Instead of owning up to the failure of governance, the dynasty’s scion visualizes these poor and homeless as vote banks who could now be enticed with the party’s latest flag ship; the direct cash transfer scheme.

Rahul’s musings about the Indian university system, the energy emanating from the rivers and inclusive growth would have been amusing, if not for the tragic truth.

The primary education system in the country is in shambles with the people deserting the public schools lacking quality education. Private schools which are akin to commercial enterprises have developed into an industry with even the less affluent desiring to get their wards enrolled in such schools.

 The universities have minimal original research work to show for their labors. The brightest leave the Indian shores for U.S universities in their quest to achieve independence from mediocrity and an unjust reservation policy. India which was once the epicenter of the education system till the medieval periods does not have any university in the top 200 universities in the world.

Governmental apathy and human avarice have combined to convert the rivers into behemoth sewers. Billions of rupees have been spent on the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) to revive the mighty Ganges. GAP, launched by Rahul’s father Rajiv, in 1985 after elaborate fanfare, has become a byword for corruption. Even the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, was forced to concede in 2010, that he was unaware of where the “billions spent on the cleaning of Ganges had disappeared.”

Corruption has rapidly gained acceptance in society. The reason for it is not far to see.

 Rahul‘s brother-in-law, Robert Vadra has become the beneficiary of strange munificence of various Congress state governments. Governments in Haryana and Rajasthan have misused their statutory powers and grabbed the lands of farmers almost by deceit, handing them over to Vadra at throwaway prices. Resultantly, Vadra, who is in cahoots with the real estate sharks has become a billionaire almost overnight. The hapless farmers have become labourers on the very land they once owned.

The usually hyperventilating and hysterical Indian media has mysteriously remained silent on Vadra’s ‘inclusive growth!’

Bereft of any substance, Rahul’s attempt to bluster failed miserably. The polemics of ‘inclusive growth’ is exposed by the paradox of India having more malnourished children than sub-Saharan Africa. The dynasty has not only failed to create institutions of governance but also stands guilty of demolishing the established modes of governance.

Rahul could do better than rely on the testimony of his Italian ‘friend.’ He needs to find an honest script writer. With Narendra Modi’s stock rising dramatically and the general elections just a year away, that better be fast!

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.