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'Rahul Gandhi Has No Idea How To Resurrect Congress'

May 03, 2024 10:32 IST
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'Rahul Gandhi never gets firsthand information. He does not know what is good or bad going on in the party.'

IMAGE: Dr Shushruth Gowda, third from left, joins the Bharatiya Janata Party. Photograph: Kind courtesy BJPKarnataka/X

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee General Secretary Dr Shushruth Gowda quit the party and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party after he was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Mysuru.

Dr Gowda was one of 120 yatris who walked with Rahul Gandhi on his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. A surgeon, Dr Gowda gave up his practice in the US to return to India and enter public life.

"Rahul Gandhi is an extremely nice person. He wants to solve the problems of poor people. However, the problem is over the practicality. He doesn't have a clue how to solve these problems practically," Dr Gowda tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/].


What made you quit your good life in the US, come back to India and then join politics by becoming one of the participants of the Bharat Jodo Yatra with Rahul Gandhi?

When I came back from the USA I had no idea I would be a part of politics because I was practicing in one of the hospitals in Mysore.

I opened a neuro centre and while working I saw there was a huge discrepancy in treatment between the USA and India.

Also, I found out that there was a huge disparity between rural and urban health care in India.

I then got curious to know what we are doing to set up super specialty hospitals in rural India. I wanted to give free service for rural people.

For example, checking sugar levels or blood pressure is okay in rural areas as doctors are available, but when it comes to heart related issues or brain or orthopaedic related issues this kind of treatment is lacking in rural India.

They have to come to towns or a place like Mysore for treatment and spend lot of money. So, I decided to give super specialty services to rural people at their doorstep for free.

Did you do this on your own?

I did it through my charity trust -- the V R Trust (Vishnumurthy Rekhamurthy Trust) named after my father and mother.

I did around 75 health camps and saw close to around 19,000 patients.

While working in the camps, I met P V Rajagopal from the Ekta Parishad in Mysore. He told me about the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

He asked me to join the yatra stating I would be able to see health disparity treatment in other rural parts of India and get firsthand information.

And since my passion is rural health care, I decided to join.

Were you ideologically close to the Congress in your youth?

I was never affiliated with politics though my father and other relatives were.

I came from the US and became one of the 120 people who walked the Bharat Jodo Yatra's entire route, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

I traveled five-and-a-half months and covered 3,750 km. I got lot of information about rural health care in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other states.

It was firsthand information and helpful for me to understand issues. I realised that to solve problems of rural health care you need to be in the political system.

I spoke to Siddaramiah; he was not Karnataka chief minister then. He encouraged me to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra. He later told me to join politics and that is how I entered politics.

I felt as a doctor I can reach around 1 lakh people, but if there is a healthcare policy change I can help crores of people.

I decided to join politics with the aim to change things especially in the healthcare arena.

How many years did you spend in the Congress party?

I joined the Congress seven months ago, after which my name was considered for the Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat.

However, I did not get the Congress ticket and M Lakshman got the ticket.

Shortly after his name was announced, the KPCC (Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee) appointed me general secretary.

After that, a lot of things happened and recently I joined the BJP.

It was a surprising decision because the Bharat Jodo Yatra was about Mohabbat Ki Dukaan and brotherhood.
And the BJP, according to Rahul Gandhi. is a divisive party which spreads hate.

I disagree with such kind of words to describe the BJP. I don't agree that the BJP is a divisive party.

Their ideology is different from the Congress party and I don't think the BJP is dividing the nation.

The BJP wants to promote Hinduism, but at the same time they do not want to degrade any religion. This is my understanding about the BJP.

My line of thinking while joining the BJP was that I want to do something good for the rural population of India in terms of health and whoever creates that platform I will work for them.

I did not get that platform in the Congress party. They had an opportunity to create the platform, but they did not do it.

The BJP approached me stating a talent like me needs a platform that they can provide so I joined them.

The Congress can be looked at from a different perspective and so can the BJP.

It all depends on who is looking at that perspective. Therefore, I don't see the BJP as a party dividing the nation.

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at an election meeting in Kendrapara, Odisha, April 28, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

A Congress government was formed in Karnataka after the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Didn't it provide you a platform?

No, they did not give me the platform. I am not a politician. I am an expert in my field. I want to do something good for the country.

I feel they were not clever or intelligent enough to understand me. They lost the game after they came to power.

Initially, they were enthusiastic by getting us to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir so that they could get power.

After they got power they showed their true colours or maybe they were not intelligent enough to understand my goals.

Didn't you speak to the Congress leadership before quitting the party?

I was sidelined in the Congress party. Even though I was given the responsibility of elections in the Mysore constituency there was hardly anybody to take inputs from me or act on the inputs I gave.

I was never informed about the meetings that were taking place. And even if I went for meetings I was not give a platform (to speak).

There was a lot of infighting in the Congress.

Were you considered an outsider in the Congress party?

Yes kind of. Even though I was not an outside, I was given a feeling of being an outsider.

I had a long chat with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. I told him I had no role to play and asked what I should do. There was no answer from him to my question.

After which, I wished him all the best and left. I was looking for an avenue and the BJP (leaders) came personally to me and gave me an opportunity to join them.

What made you return to India?

To be honest, I wanted my children to grow up in India. I wanted them to study here and grow here. I wanted them not to forget their roots.

In the USA I was doing well professionally. When I came here I had no idea that I will do rural health service.

I realised the huge gap in rural and urban healthcare facilities when I started practicing in India.

And therefore, I started practicing in rural India.

What attracted an NRI like you to the Congress?

I was not attracted, but Rajagopal, as I told you earlier, told me to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra. He told me I could see India in a different way, therefore, I joined Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Don't you feel joining the BJP is the opposite of the reasons for which you walked in the Bharat Jodo Yatra?

I agree that the BJP is promoting Hinduism and that they are a predominantly Hindu party. They are promoting Hinduism because India is the only Hindu nation.

The Congress wants to build a narrative against the BJP, but they do not have any narrative. Therefore, they are giving (this anti-minority narrative for the BJP). There are no mass killings or harm for the minority in India. I don't agree that the BJP is dividing the nation as it is just a narrative by the Congress party.

What's your opinion about Rahul Gandhi?

He is an extremely nice person. He wants to solve the problems of poor people. However, the problem is over the practicality.

He doesn't have a clue how to solve these problems practically. He is surrounded by a coterie of leaders and they cannot be broken unless Rahul Gandhi tells them to get out so that he can meet regular Congress leaders.

Rahul Gandhi never gets firsthand information. He does not know what is good or bad going on in the party.

It is easier for journalists to meet Rahul Gandhi than a Congress leader or party workers.

I was a KPCC general secretary and when Rahul Gandhi came to the airport only two people from Mysore went to receive him. These two people had connections so they got an opportunity to meet him.

It is not that I was dying to meet him, but as a leader Rahul Gandhi should know about this fact that he is seeing only select people of his party.

He should tell his coterie that he wants to meet more and more Congress leaders when he comes to a place like Mysore even if it is for a very short time.

You see any picture of Rahul Gandhi and you will see only three leaders with him all the time. Why?

On the contrary, have you seen Prime Minister Modi surrounded by the same people all the time? No. Rahul Gandhi must mingle with people.

IMAGE: Dr Shushruth Gowda. Photograph: Kind courtesy BJPKarnataka/X

Didn't you meet Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra?

Yes, I got to meet him 3-4 times. I had a good conversation with him about healthcare issues. But after the Bharat Jodo Yatra he never took any feedback from me.

Lot of people who walked with me in the Bharat Jodo Yatra joined other parties. Why?

Because Rahul Gandhi has no idea about what needs to be done to resurrect the Congress. You cannot come to power with this kind of attitude.

Rahul Gandhi has a lot to learn from the BJP on how to reach out to people.

Just walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir does not cut the ice, you have to do more than that.

When you spoke to Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, how did he respond? Did he ever call you after the yatra?

I thought he would call me after the yatra, but the leaders around him never allowed that.

Rahul Gandhi should think about those 120 people who walked with him in the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

They walked in the cold, in the rain, in the sun. Who are they? Where are they? What are they? Rahul Gandhi could have asked.

Worse, they did not give a certificate to those 120 people who walked during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. We spent 6 months and the Congress did not give one certificate to us.

You can ask (Congress Organising Secretary) K C Venugopal or (Congress President) Mallikarjun Kharge about this. They did not even allow us to click a picture with Rahul Gandhi or give a certificate when we finished the walk.

They did not ask what happened to us after we went back home, what experience we had or what we felt about the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Therefore, I had to go with someone who understood my vision and the BJP understood my vision.

IMAGE: Dr Shushruth Gowda with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Shushruth Gowda/Instagram

Could you not have been patient and waited because in the Congress they give positions to people who have spent their life for the party?

My point is very simple. When you have energy, enthusiasm and ideas quickly, implement things.

Once I become 75 if you give me a position it will not matter because I do not have energy or passion at that age.

You have to give a position at the right time and right age. You cannot say you should have patience and wait for another 10 years.

In 10 years I will be 60. What will I do at 60? You have arthritis or heart problems. It is ridiculous.

Mr Modi became prime minister at 63. In India, life in politics begins after 60.

I know, but you need to change that. I thought Rahul Gandhi being young will have that mindset, but not really. The Congress is all about the coterie around Rahul Gandhi.

They are spoiling the game for him. I feel sorry for Rahul Gandhi. This coterie will make sure that nobody comes close to Rahul Gandhi. Prashant Kishor advised him about this.

When was this?

He told Rahul Gandhi that he should keep all Congress old timers out so that new people will be able to reach the masses.

They (the coterie around Rahul Gandhi) are the stumbling block to the growth of the party. Rahul Gandhi should have listened to Prashant Kishor.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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