Politics

Most Important Clue In Rahul Gandhi’s Speech At Berkeley Is That He May Abandon UPA-2’s Follies

Rahul Gandhi. (Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
Snapshot
  • This is a refreshing openness to change, and Modi should take advantage of it, if only to prove that Rahul Gandhi does not mean what he says when he says the ideas of 2004 were outdated by 2012.

The media has focused too much on Rahul Gandhi’s views on dynastic politics, and too little on the most important thing he said during his speech at the University of California at Berkeley this week.

While the BJP was quick to seize on his remarks about dynasties being the norm in India, the thing that should interest (or worry) it the most was his assessment of where the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) went wrong, especially in areas where the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is continuing along the same ruinous path.

This is what The Indian Express quotes Rahul as saying: “Any party in India that is in power for 10 years will run into a problem. It is just natural…The vision that we had laid out in 2004 was designed, at best, for a 10-year period. And it was pretty clear that the vision that we had laid out in 2004… by the time we arrived in 2010-11, it was already not working. Somewhere around 2012, and I will say this, a certain arrogance crept into the Congress party and they stopped having that conversation (with people). …If you look at India from about 2012… and we are to blame for at least two to three years of that… India has basically lost its vision.” (Italics mine)

Gandhi then added that the BJP continued to build on the UPA’s architecture, but “that architecture doesn’t work. We know it because it has stopped working.”

In short, Rahul Gandhi is himself repudiating a large part of the UPA-2 legacy even while Narendra Modi is pushing ahead on the assumption that at least some of it is right.

Some time back, Arun Shourie, possibly embittered by his exclusion from the Modi government, called NDA-2 as “Congress plus cow”. Modi needs to now figure out which part of UPA-2 was worth keeping, and which part worth discarding.

The import of Rahul Gandhi’s statement is that many of the initiatives of UPA-2 are past their sell-by date. Among the things that got legislated during the period after 2010-11 was the National Food Security Act, and the Land Acquisition Act (titled the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013). It is not clear whether Rahul Gandhi was referring to these acts, or even the earlier legislations (the MGNREGA or Right to Education Act) that were envisioned in UPA-1 and before 2010-11.

Either way, what is clear is that the Modi government continues to live with those follies, after failing to rewrite the Land Acquisition Act in 2014.

But now, assuming Rahul Gandhi means what he says, it suggests that he would be more open to rewriting UPA-2 laws than Modi.

That would be a tragedy. Maybe, the Modi government should open a dialogue based on this statement of Rahul Gandhi and ask him which changes the Congress party would be keen on making, and where he could support the government.

The other significant takeout from Rahul Gandhi’s statement at Berkeley is that he might well break with his mother’s politics if destiny were to give him a chance to head the next government after 2019. He expressed himself as willing to take over as party boss.

This is a refreshing openness to change, and Modi should take advantage of it, if only to prove that Rahul Gandhi does not mean what he says when he says the ideas of 2004 were outdated by 2012.

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