Rahul Gandhi’s Cambridge University remarks fuel row: 7 times when Congress leader has tarnished India’s image abroad
Rahul Gandhi in his ongoing visit to the United Kingdom spoke about the attack on democracy in India at Cambridge University. The Congress leader’s comment is just one of the many times he has targeted the country and the government while being on foreign soil
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been a busy, busy man. After concluding his 146-day-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress leader and Wayanad MP made his way to the United Kingdom where he delivered a lecture at his alma mater Cambridge University.
However, his address — Learning to Listen in the 21st Century — has stirred up a controversy, with India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticising the Congress leader for ‘telling people bad things about India’.
Notably, this isn’t the first time Rahul Gandhi has made comments about India’s democracy and lamented on the state of affairs while on foreign soil. We take a look at what exactly did the Congress MP say in his Cambridge speech and also a look back at times when he has attacked the government of the country and the nation while abroad.
‘Facing an attack on the basic structure of democracy’ — Cambridge, 2023
Rahul Gandhi made his way to UK last week and addressed students at the university’s Judge Business School. From his Bharat Jodo Yatra to the alleged threat to Indian democracy — the Congress leader covered a vast array of topics.
In his speech, Rahul said, “Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy… Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilisation — these are all getting constrained. We are facing an attack on the basic structure of democracy.”
Referring to the Pegasus snooping controversy, he said that a number of politicians, including him, had been spied upon using the Israeli software. A large number of political leaders have Pegasus on their phones. I myself had Pegasus on my phone. I have been called by intelligence officers who say please be careful of what you say on the phone as we are recording the stuff,” he claimed.
Emphasising that democracy was under attack in the country, Rahul said that Opposition leaders were under ‘constant pressure’ of being slapped with unreasonable criminal cases. “I have got a number of criminal liable cases registered against me for the things which shouldn’t be under criminal cases. As the Opposition, it is very difficult to communicate with people when you have this type of an assault on media and on the democratic architecture,” he said.
In his speech, Rahul also spoke of how Chinese value harmony in society. “The way the Americans value individual liberty, the Chinese value harmony. Individual liberty is not central to China’s idea, their idea is much more about society being in harmony because they have had massive tremors, they have a huge amounts of pain, a cultural revolution, civil war… what they don’t want is that things go out of control, to spiral out of control and disorder coming… which is legitimate, which is as legitimate for them as individual liberty is to US,” Gandhi said at Cambridge University.
His comments — almost praising China — comes at a time when India is engaged in a standoff with the Asian giant at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The BJP hit back at Rahul for his seemingly praiseworthy comments of China, with BJP spokesperson Amit Malviya saying, “Rahul Gandhi, in a brazen manner, justifies China’s authoritarianism.”
‘The deep State is chewing the Indian state’ — UK, 2022
Rahul’s utterances at Cambridge on 28 February are on the same lines as what he has said in the past. Speaking at the India@75 event at Cambridge University’s Corpus Christi College on 23 May last year, Rahul had said there was a “systematic attack” on the institutions that allow India to speak and the conversation is being stamped out.
“The deep state, the CBI, the ED, is now chewing the Indian state and eating it, much like in Pakistan,” he asserted.
Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s canards at Cambridge: The Yuvraj at it again
In the same speech, he also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is creating a vision of India that is not inclusive of all parts of the country’s population, which is unfair and goes against the idea of India. “Modi is constructing a vision of India where he’s leaving out huge chunks of our population. And, that’s not a vision of India, that’s a vision of a part of India.”
He added, “My problem with the RSS and the prime minister is that they are fiddling with the foundational structure of India. When you play the politics of polarisation, when you isolate and demonise 200 million people, you are doing something extremely dangerous and you are doing something that is fundamentally against the idea of India.”
‘Women not equal in India’ — Germany, 2018
In August 2018, Rahul Gandhi had belittled India when he addressed the Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg. In that speech, the Congress leader cited the example of the Islamic State terrorist group to say that exclusion of a large number of people from the development process could lead to the creation of insurgent groups anywhere in the world.
The Congress MP had said that the BJP government excluded tribals, Dalits and minorities from the development narrative and “this could be a dangerous thing”.
“If you do not give people a vision in the 21st century, somebody else will. And that is the real risk of excluding a large number of people from the development process,” Gandhi had said, adding that incidents of lynching in India were linked to joblessness and the lack of opportunities
In the same address, Rahul also spoke of how Indian men didn’t view the women in the country as equal.
‘RSS similar to Muslim Brotherhood’ — UK, 2018
The Congress leader earned a lot of flak in 2018 when he compared the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the Muslim Brotherhood — the radical Islamist outfit.
Speaking at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, he had said, “The RSS is trying to change the nature of India. There is no other organisation in India that wants to capture India’s institutions… What we are dealing with is a completely new idea. It’s an old idea being reborn. It is similar to the idea that exists in the Arab world of the Muslim Brotherhood. The idea is that one ideology should run through every institution and one idea should crush all other ideas.”
Also read: The Congress’ many flip-flops on VD Savarkar
For the unaware, the Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest political Islamist group in the Arab world. It is banned and declared as a terrorist organisation by the governments of several countries.
Gandhi’s comments were immediately criticised by the BJP, with its spokesperson Sambit Patra saying that the comparison of the organisation with an Islamist outfit was “unforgivable”. The BJP leader also demanded an apology from Gandhi adding, “Stop this job of acting as a contract killer of the idea called India.”
‘Throw demonetisation file in dustbin’ — Malaysia, 2018
The Congress leader has been critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation initiative — the invalidation of high-value currency notes currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 — since it took place in 2016.
He voiced this criticism even when he travelled to Malaysia in March 2018 as part of his five-day trip to Southeast Asian countries. When asked how he would have rolled out demonetisation, Gandhi had said, “If I was the prime minister and somebody would have given me a file with demonetisation written on it, I would thrown it in the dustbin, out of the door and into the junkyard.”
‘Politics of intimidation’ — Singapore, 2018
During the same five-day visit to countries in the Southeast Asia, Gandhi had travelled to Singapore where he once again spoke of the current climate in India.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the Congress scion said there was a general atmosphere of intimidation in the country and the politics of dividing people was being played to win elections.
“There is a particular type of politics that’s not only happening in India but in a number of places — of dividing people, of using their anger to win elections and that’s what is happening in India.”
‘Hatred, anger and violence has raised its ugly head in India’ — US, 2017
Back in September 2017, Rahul Gandhi had visited the United States and addressed students at the University of California, Berkeley. His speech ‘India at 70’ reflected on contemporary India and the path forward for the world’s largest democracy.
He covered a wide range of topics, including dynastic politics as well as ‘BJP’s hate politics’.
Read the full transcript of Rahul Gandhi’s @UCBerkeley address here: https://t.co/PdZrLmKImX#RGinUS pic.twitter.com/AOrv1lmNWf
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 12, 2017
The Congress leader said: “Hatred, anger and violence and the politics of polarisation has raised its ugly head in India today. Violence and hatred distract people from the task at hand. Liberal journalists being shot, people being lynched because they are Dalits, Muslims, killed on suspicion of eating beef, this is new in India and damages India very badly. The politics of hate divides and polarises India, making millions of people feel that they have no future in their own country. In today’s connected world, this is extremely dangerous. It isolates people and makes them vulnerable to radical ideas.”
At home, his comments prompted BJP’s Smriti Irani to react. She told the media, “The country (India) is not listening (to him) so he is speaking somewhere else.”
Her reaction was echoed by Ravi Shankar Prasad who said, “There is a tradition in our country that we don’t talk about domestic politics overseas. Despite being from a big family, Rahul did not pay attention to this tradition.”
With inputs from agencies
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