Nearly a month after the DMK and Congress sealed their poll pact for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi arrived in Chennai, addressing the media prior to the party’s public rally in Nagercoil. Even as Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President KS Alagiri made opening remarks in Tamil, Rahul wondered aloud why Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not hold such press conferences. Setting the tone for the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, Rahul Gandhi recalled, “I remember the farmers of Tamil Nadu in Jantar Mantar. I remember that, I don’t forget it. I remember the response of the government to those people.”
Flanked by key TNCC leaders including P Chidambaram, Khushbu, CR Kesavan, and KS Alagiri, Rahul Gandhi mounted a scathing attack on the state and central governments. Encouraging journalists to ask any questions they wished to ask, he said, “The government in Tamil Nadu is frankly remote controlled by the Prime Minister. This is an insult to the Tamil people. For the first time in many years, they are being run from Delhi. And that is unacceptable to me. I think the Tamil people should run their own state.”
Breaking down the ‘main thrust’ of the 2019 Indian General Elections, Gandhi said these were ‘employment, farmers and happy, prosperous and united India.’
In response to a question from The News Minute on the revision of the Finance Commission’s terms of reference and the erosion of the federal structure of the country, Rahul Gandhi expressed dismay at the ‘capturing’ of independent institutions by the BJP. “They want the entire country to be run out of Nagpur– the RSS. They’ve destroyed the Planning Commission, the RBI, they’re in the process of destroying the Supreme Court, the Election Commission. Anything you read with regards economic data is just invented by the government of India as and when they please,” he said.
Citing the example of the GDP calculation method being altered by the Central government, Rahul Gandhi pointed to a crisis of credibility. “The BJP differentiates between states based on states where they are in power and states where they are not. That’s anti national,” he alleged.
Pressed further on his stance on federalism, Rahul Gandhi said, “I’m a decentralizer. I believe in institutions that decentralize power. I do not believe that India should be run out of the PMO. I believe that India should be decentralized. I also don’t believe that India should be run out of Chief Ministers’ Offices. I believe that there is a role for the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, the panchayat, the MLA and each one of those should have the requisite power granted to them by the Constitution.”
He added, “Anything you read with regards economic data is just invented by the government of India as and when they please.”
Minimum Basic Income Guarantee
While the Congress chief said that the manifesto would soon be released by his party, he revealed that one of the key components of it was the Minimum Basic Income Guarantee. Explaining this, he said, “We have a revolutionary idea called the Minimum Basic Income Guarantee. That means that after 2019, there will be nobody in India below the minimum income line. We will decide a minimum income line and everybody will be brought up to that minimum income line by a direct cash transfer into their bank accounts. This will be a massive boost to the people of Tamil Nadu.”
Stating that the NEET issues in the state could be resolved flexibly, he add that the Congress party hoped to make Tamil Nadu the centre of job creation in India. Consulting former Finance Minister P Chidambaram who was seated away from him, Gandhi said that secondary education should be the domain of the states.
“Narendra Modi is a flop show when it comes to job creation. He makes fake statements about Make in India and Startup India,” he said, adding that the Congress, if voted to power, would introduce a simpler version of the GST, with lowered tax rates.
“You cannot have a country that is divided, fighting and states that are having acrimonious relationships and then expect solid economic growth. So the first thing the Congress party will do, and that is in our nature, is to bring harmony to the country. To make everybody in the country, including the Tamil people, feel that they are part of this country,” he said.
No animosity towards Rajiv Gandhi assassins
When asked about the demand in Tamil Nadu for the release of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, a poised Gandhi said that on the personal front, he and his family had dealt with the loss of his father. “Whatever course the legal issue takes, we are happy with it. We are quite forgiving people. We do not have any animosity or hatred towards anybody so it is for the court to decide what happens,” he remarked.
Commending The Hindu newspaper for its coverage of the Rafale deal controversy, Rahul Gandhi empathised with journalists who felt bullied, threatened and pressured by the government. “We do not have questions about the capability of the aircraft. The only question we are raising is that Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani have stolen Rs 30,000 crores from the Air Force,” he clarified, calling for an investigation that he was confident would ‘convict’ PM Modi and businessman Anil Ambani.
In response to a question on the Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition parties, Rahul Gandhi called it arrogant to make statements on who will be the Prime Minister. “It is for the people to decide. It is the duty of the united opposition to defeat Narendra Modi.” Interestingly, DMK chief MK Stalin and the Congress’ alliance partner in Tamil Nadu, had proposed Gandhi’s name as the PM candidate in December last year.
Source: The News Minute