On Friday, Rahul Gandhi stirred up a hornet’s nest by making some of the most controversial statements defining his ‘Idea of India’ at a conference in the United Kingdom. The Gandhi-scion discussed several issues, where he promoted sub-nationalism besides instigating anarchy in the country by calling for a ‘mass action’ against the Indian state.
In his talk at the ‘Ideas for India’ conclave in the United Kingdom, the Congress leader also discussed the issues of India’s sectors of the economy and his ideas about India’s growth story. Rahul Gandhi touched upon several topics ranging from jobs, industrial sector revival, business environment and the role of private and public sectors in the country.
During the event, the interviewer put out false assertions about the growth of the Indian economy asking Rahul Gandhi to share his views on the present state of the Indian economic planning. The interviewer misleadingly suggested that the Indian economy has declined over the past four years, especially the last year. However, it is untrue that the Indian economy has slid in the previous year as a UN report suggests that India is still the fastest-growing economy despite the ongoing Ukraine conflict that has impacted the global GDP.
Responding to a question, Rahul Gandhi shared his ideas on the economic front, however, he ended up reiterating the same policies and ideas of the Modi government. On the question of manufacturing, Rahul Gandhi claimed that he believed that India needs to focus on its manufacturing sector, especially on the revival of Small and Medium Enterprises in India.
The Gandhi-scion noted that the Chinese dominate the production, just like the Americans once did, and added that India could not fulfil the promises of its people without a robust production system. Rahul Gandhi said the jobs for the vast majority of the people could be given only by focusing on the manufacturing sector.
“Moving from an idea that growth is enough to an idea where growth is important, but production and manufacturing are key. I think there is a huge opportunity for us if we think about it properly,” said Rahul Gandhi, emphasising the need to build a strong manufacturing sector in India.
Essentially, Rahul Gandhi was highlighting the very same vision often shared by Prime Minister Modi, whose government has been on the task of reviving India’s manufacturing sector in the last eight years. The Modi government has launched several mission-mode projects, including the ambitious ‘Make in India’ program to place India on the world map as a manufacturing hub. The government aims to create 100 million new jobs in the sector by 2022. The Modi government has launched several incentive schemes to promote setting up of manufacturing plants, and has seen good participation from the industry in the initiative.
Ironically, Rahul Gandhi, who often insults and mocks the Prime Minister over his economic policies, is regurgitating the same ideas which have been translated into action by the Modi government. Ever since the Modi government came to power, the manufacturing sector had contributed 25.92 per cent of the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the economy in 2021, which was less than 17 per cent in 2014 when UPA was in power.
Rahul Gandhi’s ideas mimic the Modi government’s policies on MSME
Further, Rahul Gandhi also stressed another concept of the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their role in creating employment. He claimed that the SME sector had been systematically attacked and destroyed by the BJP through his initiatives such as demonetisation, Goods and Service Tax and the farm laws.
The Congress MP also added that it is essential that SMEs be strengthened and a proper funding system to support them.
In fact, it seems like Rahul Gandhi has picked up these very ideas straight from the BJP. One of the most successful interventions of the Modi government, especially in the last few years, is its major focus on the MSME sectors. As many as 28 schemes and several packages have been launched by MSME Ministry in the previous eight years to provide impetus to the MSME sector. More than Rs.3 lakh crore collateral-free automatic loans have been disbursed for MSMEs to meet their operational liabilities and restart businesses that suffered from the pandemic.
Perhaps, Rahul Gandhi wants the Modi government to credit him for its policies on the MSME sector.
Also, citing China’s success in the manufacturing sector, Rahul Gandhi highlighted that they have taken their traditional networks and supported them through finance. We have clusters across the country, in every state, and we need to connect these clusters to the financial system of the country, he said.
Yet again, Rahul Gandhi’s idea revolved around integrating small and medium-sized industries into the formal economy, besides bringing these entities under the financial system. The Modi government has successfully implemented several schemes such as MUDRA, Stand Up India scheme, Atma Nirbhar packages, etc., to aid the SMEs. Besides schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana, an Emergency credit line, the digital economy has only provided a fillip to the MSME sector.
Rahul Gandhi’s flip-flop on the private sector
Repeating his usual rhetoric on big industrialists, Rahul Gandhi also claimed that there were only two business houses that were in control of the manufacturing sector in the country. Rahul Gandhi also flip-flopped on his position on the private versus the public sector debate, an issue which has taken the limelight in recent months.
Rahul Gandhi, who otherwise is a very great critic of the private sector, claimed that the private sector is the one which drives the economy and added that the public sector has to operate in areas which are only strategic and key. Rahul Gandhi also noted that the private sector should be freed from the bureaucracy and the attack that has been taking place from the ‘deep state’.
Rahul Gandhi again makes the same mistake of parroting the ideas of the Modi government. The Gandhi-scion has been so far very critical of the Modi government over its privatisation drive. Every time the government plans to sell its stakes from the loss-making PSUs, Rahul Gandhi has attacked them, saying that PM Modi was selling the country’s assets to his ‘industrialist friends’.
In fact, the Modi government has a strategic vision for disinvestment of the public sector undertakings, and it is also in the process of selling or closing down loss-making PSUs, just as we saw in the recent case of Air India. The centre intends to keep control of certain PSUs that operate in the strategic sector and wants to dissolve or disinvest in the non-strategic sector.
The very ideas of the Modi government are now being stressed by Rahul Gandhi, a strong opponent of the Modi government. It seems like Rahul Gandhi appreciates the policies pursued by the Modi government, however, he feels he is too entitled to appreciate them within India and has now found a foreign soil to sell them as his own ideas.
Strangely, Rahul Gandhi takes a u-turn again during his speech as he refers to the Modi government’s privatisation drive as “very dangerous”. He also said that most of the country’s key infrastructures are owned by one company, indirectly hinting at Adani Group.
“I think it’s very dangerous for one company to control all airports, all ports, all the infrastructure. It (Private sector monopoly) has never existed in this form. It has never existed with such a massive concentration of power & capital,” said Rahul.
The Gandhi-scion also made some unverified claims against the central agencies saying the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate were extorting businesses.
Besides Rahul Gandhi, opposition leaders, including CPI(M) ‘s Sitaram Yechury, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and TMC’s Mahua Moitra, have also travelled to London to participate in the event organised by the non-profit think-tank Bridge India.