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RSS like Muslim Brotherhood, says Rahul in UK; BJP hits back

By H S Rao and Aditi Khanna
Last updated on: August 24, 2018 23:51 IST

IMAGE: Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaks at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London on Friday. Photograph: All India Congress Committee via PTI Photo

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday likened the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world and alleged that the outfit is trying to 'change' the nature of India and 'capture' its institutions.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest political Islamist group in the Arab world. It is not allowed to operate as an official political party in some Arab countries.

Answering questions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Gandhi accused the RSS of trying to change the nature of India and capture India's institutions.

"We are fighting an organisation RSS which is trying to change the nature of India," he said.

"The RSS is trying to change the nature of India. Other parties haven't tried to capture India's institutions.

"The RSS' idea is similar to the idea of Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world," Gandhi told the audience at the London-based think-tank.

There is no other organisation in India which wants to capture India's institutions, he said.

When the Congress Party comes to power, Samajwadi (Party) comes to power, the Bahujan Samaj Party comes to power or the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) comes, they don't try to attack and capture India's institutions, he said.

"What we are dealing with is a completely new idea. It is an old idea being reborn and it is similar to the idea that exists in the Arab World with the Muslim Brotherhood - that one ideology should run through every single institution - one idea should crush all other ideas," Gandhi said.

"That is why you see the response -- four Supreme Court judges come out saying we are not allowed to do our work. You see Mr Raghuram Rajan (former Reserve Bank of India governor) expressing his shock at demonetisation.

"You can see India's institutions come down one by one and realisation that we are fighting now something that they are trying to destroy, the modern ideology," Gandhi said.

That requires a response that is more inclusive. A response has to include everybody who values India's achievements, everybody who values Indian institutions, more open to conversation, more open to building bridges. One does fear what is happening in India, the Congress president said.

"When you say something like India punches above its weight to be blunt the West did not believe in India in 1947. The West said India can not succeed as a democracy and India proved the West wrong.

"Thousands and thousands of people worked to build the institutions, where their businesses, courts are now under attack," Gandhi added.

He also criticised the demonetisation of the Modi government banning the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes.

"The idea of demonetisation came directly from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), bypassed the Finance Minister and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and was planted in Prime Minister's head," the Congress president said.

Modi had claimed that the demonetisation would help curtail the shadow economy and crack down on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism.

Gandhi said India's economic power lies in millions of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as they create jobs.

"When one bypasses the entire institutional structure and decides to demonetise the nation, that is not maximising India's power," he said.

'Modi has no deeply thought-out strategy on Pak'

IMAGE: Gandhi warned against an 'attempt to impose a rigid, hate-filled ideology by forces like the RSS on India through a politics that excludes the country's lower castes and minorities'. Photograph: All India Congress Committee via PTI Photo

Gandhi also said that Modi does not have a 'deeply thought-out strategy' on Pakistan, but acknowledged that it was 'very difficult' to converse with Islamabad as there is no single institution there that holds supremacy.

Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to United Kingdom, talked about Indo-Pak relations which nosedived following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based terror groups since January 2016.

India has made it clear that it will not hold dialogue with Pakistan as terrorism and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

Gandhi said that 'there is no deeply thought-out strategy by Prime Minister Modi when it comes to Pakistan'.

He also said that it was very difficult to deal with Pakistan.

Pakistan's powerful military has ruled the country for nearly half of its history since independence in 1947.

Gandhi said: "It's very difficult to converse with Pakistan because there is no one institution that holds supremacy."

"So we wait until they come to form a cohesive structure," he said at the London-based think-tank, apparently referring to the new government in Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a letter to Khan on August 18, the day he was sworn in as Pakistan's 22nd prime minister, Modi expressed India's resolve to build good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

On July 30, Modi telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party's victory in the general elections and expressed hope that both countries will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties.

'India could've stopped Doklam stand-off if PM was careful'

The Congress president said the Doklam standoff with China was not an 'isolated issue' but part of a 'sequence of events' and if the prime minister was carefully watching the process, India could have stopped it.

Gandhi said that 'Prime Minister is episodic. He views Doklam as an event'.

"Doklam is not an isolated issue. It was a part of a sequence of events, it was a process.

"If he (PM Modi) was carefully watching the process, he could've stopped it," Gandhi, who is also a member of the parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, said.

He claimed that the 'truth is the Chinese are still in Doklam today'.

'BJP attacks everything I say by default'

Gandhi hit back at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for misrepresenting his comments related to the Islamic State terror group, saying it has adopted a 'default position' of attacking everything he says.

The BJP accused Gandhi of 'belittling and insulting' India in his address in Hamburg on August 22, alleging that the Congress chief tried to justify terrorism and 'lied through his teeth' to criticise the Narendra Modi government.

The ruling party demanded that Gandhi apologise for his remarks.

During the interactive segment of his 'India and the World' event at the House of Commons complex in London, Gandhi said that the BJP has adopted a default position of attacking everything he says.

"All I said (in reference to ISIS) was that there are a number of ideas running around and we must make sure we are giving a vision to all those people or somebody else will... it is very important that we involve people and carry people with us so that they feel part of nation building.

"Now that is not how the BJP describes what I said".

IMAGE: Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to UK, spoke on a range of issues. Photograph: @INCIndia/Twitter

"The BJP attacks everything I say. It is their default position," he said in response to a question from the audience of the United Kingdom-based parliamentarians, local leaders and media.

The Congress president, who is on a two-day visit to the UK organised by the Indian Overseas Congress, tackled a range of subjects during his interaction in the UK Parliament complex.

The central focus of his message was on 'conversation and listening' to the needs of the people as well as the diaspora.

"The way I see it, India is millions of people's voices and it is important to listen to as many as you can and help structure them.

"Today the farmers in India are screaming, small businesses are screaming: 'please do something about the GST'. It is our duty to see what can be done to help them and not just imposing a vision on them, which is what is happening in India today," he said.

Gandhi also reiterated his message about job creation from his interactions in Germany earlier this week, attributing the so-called US-triggered trade wars to an underlying job crisis in the world.

"We are struggling to produce the numbers of jobs required. The western world can't answer how it will give jobs to its blue-collar workers. The Congress party has the vision for it," he said.

'We will win 2019 general elections'

Gandhi said his party will win the 2019 general elections by building a 'formidable alliance' to fight the BJP.

Speaking at the House of Commons complex, Gandhi warned against an attempt to impose a rigid, hate-filled ideology by forces like the RSS on India through a politics that excludes the country's lower castes and minorities.

"There is an attempt to impose a very rigid, hate-filled angry ideology on India... This is an ideological battle and the line is very clear -- there is the hate-filled ideology of the RSS on one side and there is all the Opposition on the other side, and you will feel the weight of this combined opposition," he said.

"We are going to win the election in 2019 and then we can start going back to India where people were respected and the whole country was carried together," Gandhi said.

He said that the Congress party was building a 'formidable alliance' to fight the divisive forces in power in India.

Stressing that the Congress is the party dedicated to 'protecting the weak', he attacked 'the forces in power' for crushing conversation and those opposed to their views.

Asked a question about the Congress party's 'involvement' in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Gandhi described the incident as a tragedy and painful experience, but disagreed that the Congress was 'involved'.

He said: "I think any violence done against anybody is wrong. There are legal processes ongoing in India but as far as I'm concerned anything done that was wrong during that period should be punished and I would support that 100 per cent".

Gandhi also said the 21st century should be defined by Mahatma Gandhi's message of compassion and non-violence.

The Congress president, who is the first foreign leader of Opposition to be invited to speak at the Grand Committee Room of the UK Parliament, said that India and the UK are connected as they fight people on ideas.

The other prominent speakers who have spoken at the Grand Committee Room in the House of Commons are Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, former South African president Nelson Mandela and former president of erstwhile Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.

"What connects India and the UK is that we fight people on ideas... in the 21st century, the greatest idea is compassion and non-violence as laid out by my hero Mahatma Gandhi," he told an audience of parliamentarians and local political leaders.

"Even though the British ruled us, they left us with many ideas and some strengths as well," he said.

IMAGE: The Congress president, who is the first foreign leader of Opposition to be invited to speak at the Grand Committee Room of the UK Parliament, said that India and the UK are connected as they fight people on ideas. Photograph: @INCIndia/Twitter

He also hailed the Indian-origin politicians that are part of the British political establishment.

"It is rooms like this from where Britain governed India... and many Indian people are today helping run Britain. How far the world has come," he said at the event titled 'India and the World' attended by senior Opposition Labour party MPs Keith Vaz, Virendra Sharma and Seema Malhotra.

'A certain degree of arrogance crept into Congress after 10 yrs of power'

Gandhi said the Congress has learnt a lesson from the debacle in the 2014 general elections, admitting that 'a certain degree of arrogance' had crept into it after 10 years of power.

Answering a question after his address at the IISS, Gandhi said: "You have to listen -- the leadership is all about learning."

"A certain degree of arrogance had crept into Congress after 10 years of power and we have learnt a lesson," Gandhi said when asked what was the lesson his party learnt from the 2014 election debacle.

Noting that India can punch above its weight only by creating jobs, Gandhi said India has a 'job crisis'.

He said that while China produces 50,000 jobs every 24 hours, India produces 450 jobs during the same period.

"How can India punch above its weight when you ignore fundamentals. You do not support your agriculture sector.

"If you look at India's success, it is achieved when there is decentralisation. Best rulers in India and most successful rulers in India decentralised power," Gandhi said.

For the last 70 years, it is through decentralisation India achieved success and cited examples of Green Revolution, White Revolution and Telecom Revolution, he said.

"When India opens up, India's power surges. But during the last four years (of the Modi government) there is a massive centralisation of power," Gandhi claimed.

The Congress president said: "Broadly India has been in transition for the last 70 years -- a rural country, a country locked in its villages has transformed using democratic principles."

Noting that India has succeeded in a decent measure, he said 'our transformation has been through non-violent, peaceful manner ensuring that the benefits of these transformation will go to all Indians, all communities -- nobody will be left out'.

Gandhi said that the governments till 2014 believed in supporting the farmers and other weaker sections of the society. They were helped through farm loan waivers, guaranteed work programme, right to food programme and right to information.

"These were all structured, designed to help people, ease people of the pain of transformation," he added.

Stop acting as 'contract killer' of idea called India: BJP to Rahul

The BJP launched a furious attack on Gandhi, accusing him of acting as a 'contract killer of the idea called India' for his attempt to present them as a terror organisation.

The BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said likes of President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died last week, have an RSS background and Gandhi's comparison of the organisation with an Islamist outfit at an event in London is 'unforgivable'.

Addressing the media, Patra demanded immediate apology from the Congress president for likening the choice of Indians in an election with an organisation which, the BJP leader added, is declared a terror outfit in many countries.

He asked if Gandhi has taken a 'supari' (contract for killing) for India.

"Stop this job of acting as a contract killer of the idea called India," he said.

Instead of being a proud Indian leader on foreign countries, the Congress president has been attempting to insult and belittle India abroad, he alleged.

"India is asking you is some terrorist organisation ruling India? It is a democratically elected government. Is this government, is this choice of people of India for a terror organisation," he asked.

Patra said Gandhi has no maturity and understanding whatsoever of India and has no leadership quality.

The only quality he has, the BJP leader said, is hatred towards Modi, the BJP and the RSS and his irresponsible and immature remarks were an outcome of this.

The 'frustration' shown by the Congress leader ahead of next year's Lok Sabha polls is similar to his party's desperation in 2013 ahead of the general elections in 2014 when it had allegedly accused the RSS of running terror camps and coined the term 'Hindu terrorism', Patra said.

"Why you have such hatred for democracy... Why you hate Hindus?" he asked.

What Gandhi has said will be headlines in Pakistan's media tomorrow, he claimed, and alleged that the Congress president had an sense of entitlement and could not tolerate Modi as prime minister as he came from a poor background and a backward community.

Patra also targeted Gandhi for his criticism of Modi's handling of Pakistan, and said he should have been a proud Indian and attacked not the prime minister but the neighbouring country for its support to terrorism.

With his charge of vendetta politics against the government, the Congress leader has given a handle to lawyers of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who is wanted in India for economic crimes and is currently based in London, he said.

H S Rao and Aditi Khanna in London
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