Rahul Gandhi says Congress did not create enough jobs, Modi failing, too

Jobs are among India's major challenges: Rahul Gandhi at Princeton
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday that the inability of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to create enough jobs had enabled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi to tap into the resentment among the youth and come to power at the Centre in India in 2014.
Mr. Gandhi, who is on a tour of the United States, was interacting with a group of students and faculty members at the Centre for International Security Studies (CISS) at Princeton University, New Jersey. The interaction was coordinated by Professor Shivaji Sondhi of CISS.
Asked to explain the rise of politicians like Prime Minister Modi in India and President Donald Trump in the United States, he said, "The central reason why Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump rose is jobs. A large part of our populations don't have jobs and can't see a future for themselves. They have supported these leaders."
"Those who wanted jobs helped Mr. Modi reach where he is. The space for Mr. Modi was created because the Congress' record on this front was not good enough," he said.
"They were angry with us and all those people going to be angry with Mr. Modi also. There is anger building up in India. We can see it," he said, stressing that the Modi government, too, had not been able to deliver on its promise of creating jobs.
He said the challenge was to create jobs in a democratic society. "The Congress could not do it, and that is how Mr. Modi came. And he is also not able to create jobs. All the discussions are about economic growth, not jobs," he said.
Much of the interaction was centred around jobs and employment, which, Mr. Gandhi, said was one of the main challenges in India today.
"If you can't give jobs to the people, it is very difficult to give them a vision," he said, underlining the need for the Government to carry all sections of people and every individual along. 
"About 30,000 youngsters are coming into the job market every day. The government is able to provide about 400 new jobs a day. You can do the maths. That is the central problem," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said India had tremendous achievements to its credit in several spheres in the seven decades since independence, including in industry, agriculture, telecommunications, health, education and other sectors. But he felt that much more needed to be done. 
He said there was islands of excellence in a vast ocean of mediocrity in areas such as education and health and this needed to be addressed so that the benefits are more evenly spread across all states and between  urban and rural areas.
He pointed out that no other country had pulled out as many people out of poverty over the past few decades as India had.
Mr. Gandhi said democratic countries everywhere were struggling to create blue collar jobs and this was leading to disaffection, anger and churn in all of them.
He said the Modi Government's Make in India initiative was a good programme, but he like to see more emphasis on small and medium enterprises "because that is where the jobs are".
Mr. Gandhi also spoke about the need for making the process of making laws in India more transparent by empowering the Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, on the one hand, and by involving experts and the common man, on the other. He said decentralisation and opening up access to such processes was important.
Asked about the Congress' vision for the coming years, he said the party was working on it with a bottom-up approach. He said the emphasis would be on creating more jobs and improving agriculture, education, health and such other sectors.
He said non-resident Indians (NRIs) had, over the decades, played an important role whenever there were "major shifts" in India and urged the students to play their part in solving the country's problems.
Mr. Gandhi spoke about the competition for jobs between India and China and the scope for cooperation between the two Asian giants. He said India had always maintained a balance in its foreign policy and good relations with the United States, China, Russia, and other countries. "Our strategic partnership with the United States is important, but balance is also important," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said one of the biggest achievements of the Congress over the decades was in making every individual feel that he or she was a part of India, giving them a vision about their future. "If you keep people out of your vision, you are asking for trouble," he said.
He felt one of India's central challenges was the politics of polarisation practised by some parties, who pit one community against another. 
He said there were today millions of tribals and members of minority communities who do not feel a part of the government's vision for the country. "India's strength has traditionally always been its ability to embrace people and allow them to flourish," he said. 
He pointed out that India was located in a volatile neighbourhood and if it alienated its own people it would open up space for other people to come in. "Every single person has to feel a part of the vision," he said, adding that this was one of the main differences between the approach of his party and that of Mr. Modi and the BJP.
Asked to list out some good things that the Modi government had done, Mr. Gandhi mentioned the Make in India initiative. " It is a good idea, if implemented well. As a concept, it is powerful," he said, adding that he would implement it differently, with greater emphasis on helping India's small and medium enterprises to grow and become big.
He also said the Goods and Service Tax (GST) was a good move though his party had "slight differences" about the manner of its implementation. He said the Congress had been against the multiplicity of tax rates and would have liked a gradual introduction of the new system.
Overall, there was broad agreement between the main political parties on economic policies, he said.
''The problem is that, everywhere in India, there is concentration of power. Good governance is about resisting centralisation of power," he said.
Asked about his views on a Uniform Civil Code, he said, "I leave that idea to the courts of our country. I have faith in them."
Mr. Gandhi's interaction with students at Princeton came after an address to students and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley on September 11 and meetings with think tanks and policy makers in Washington.
He is slated to address a reception organized by the Indian Overseas Congress on Wednesday evening at Marriott Marquis Hotel, Times Square, here.


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