Where do we stand today? Isolated outside, fighting inside, institutions captured, states decimated...

Excerpts from Rahul Gandhi’s speech during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address

Rahul Gandhi speaking in Lok Sabha
Rahul Gandhi speaking in Lok Sabha

Rahul Gandhi

I felt that the President’s address should have been a strategic address, an address that spoke to India about where we are and where we should be going; what are the challenges we are facing and what is the potential direction in which we can go.

Unfortunately, the President’s address was a long list of things that the Government claims to have done. But the address didn’t touch the central challenges facing our country. So, what did the address miss? What did the address not speak about? What did the address hide from the people of India?

There is now no longer one India. There are two Indias. One India is for the extremely rich people- for those who have immense wealth, for those who have immense power, for those who do not need a job, for those who do not need water connections, electricity connections, but those who control the heartbeat of the country; and then there is another India for the poor (disruptions by BJP MPs)...

For my friends in the government, I want to make it clear that the spirit with which I speak is one of discomfort with the status, the state of our country, and the spirit with which I speak, is one where I am worried about what is happening in the country.

There has been a 46 per cent drop in manufacturing jobs in India, why- because you have destroyed the unorganised sector. Whybecause you have destroyed MSMEs, that is why. You are focusing completely on five or ten people. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with big industries, focus on them, but please realise that they cannot produce jobs for you. Small and medium industries are the only people who can produce jobs for you, that is the reality.

The king, the stick and states:

If you read the Constitution of India, you will find, and many of my colleagues, who have not read it, should look at it, you will find that India is described as a Union of States. India is not described as a nation; it is described as a Union of States.

What does that mean- that means my brothers from Tamil Nadu have the same right as my brothers and sisters from Maharashtra, as my brothers from Uttar Pradesh, as my brothers from Bihar…

There are two visions of this country. One vision, that it is a Union of States; meaning- it is a negotiation, meaning- it is a conversation; meaning, I go to my brother in Tamil Nadu and say, what do you want and he says, this is what I want and then he asks me, what do you want and I say, this is what I want. It is a partnership. It is not a kingdom.

Remember that. You will never ever in your entire life rule over the people of Tamil Nadu, it cannot be done. You will never ever in your life rule over these people. Please listen to what I am saying.

Now, no matter what fantasies you might have; You will never ever rule over the people of the states of India. It has never been done in 3,000 years, never ever. The only way India has been ruled and you can look at any empire you want, you can look at Ashoka the great, you can look at the Mauryas, you can look at the Guptas, you can look at any one you want, it has always been ruled by conversation and negotiation.

The problem is, you people think that these languages, these cultures, these histories, you think that you can suppress them. You have no idea of history, you have no idea what you are dealing with, because the people of Tamil Nadu have inside their heart the idea of Tamil Nadu, the idea of the Tamil language and then also the idea of India.

I am now a Member of Parliament of Kerala, I understand it slightly better, they have a culture, they have dignity, they have a history. The people, like the gentleman said, the people of Rajasthan have a culture, have a history, have a tradition, have a language, they have a way of life. This is like a bouquet of flowers. This is our strength. I learnt from the people of Tamil Nadu, I learnt from the people of Rajasthan, I learnt even from you, every day I learnt from you. It is not funny, I learnt from you.

Where do we stand today? Isolated outside, fighting inside, institutions captured, states decimated...

Anyway, there is another vision, a vision that India can be ruled by a stick from the Centre. You people have no idea of history, because every time it has been attempted that stick has been broken and smashed.

So, there are two visions. One is a union of states, union of languages, union of cultures, a bouquet of beautiful flowers that can challenge any power in the world. No power in the world has ever been able to challenge this bouquet of flowers.

Now, there is another vision, a centralizing vision, the vision of a king, the idea of a king, which the Congress removed in 1947. We smashed that idea of a king. Now that idea of King has come back, that there is a king, a Shahenshah, a ruler of rulers, a master of masters. Now, what is happening? Now, Speaker Sir, what is happening as a result of this flawed vision?

What is happening, is that the instruments of the conversation between our states. The instruments of the conversation between our peoples, what we call the institutions of our country are being attacked and captured by one idea. So, for example- today, the idea of Tamil Nadu is excluded from Indian institutions.

They can keep coming to you again and again and saying NEET, NEET, NEET...and you will say, ‘No, get out of here’, right? They do not have a voice in your framework.

The farmers of Punjab can stand up and say, we do not agree with these three laws. They do not have a voice in your framework; only the king has the voice. The farmers can sit for one year, they can sit for one year outside in Corona, they can die, doesn’t matter, the king doesn’t agree. You do not listen to anybody.

So, this confused ideology, this confused understanding of the nation of India is playing havoc with this country and I will give you examples, the Judiciary, the Election Commission, Pegasus, these are all instruments of destroying the voice of the Union of States, when you applied Pegasus on an Indian politician.

When the Prime Minister personally goes to Israel and authorises the use of Pegasus in India, he is attacking the people of Tamil Nadu, he is attacking the people of Assam, he is attacking the people of Kerala, he is attacking the people of Bengal…

The arrogance of power:

A particular organization has captured the institutional framework of the country and is attacking the voice of the different states of this country. And my fear is that you will get a reaction from that voice. My fear is that this attack, that you are carrying out on the institutional framework of this country is going to get a response from the Union of States and you are fiddling.

I understand you might not appreciate it, but, my great grandfather spent 15 years in jail, building this thing, my grandmother was shot 32 times and my father was blown into bits, so I understand a little bit about what this country is.

My blood has been sacrificed, not by me, by my great grandfather, by my grandmother, by my father for this country, so I understand what it is and you are fiddling with; something very-very dangerous and I am advising you ‘stop’, because if you do not stop, you will create a problem.

You have already started creating the problem. The problem has already started in the north east. The problem has already started in Tamil Nadu, it is not visible, it is not visible to you right now. Jammu-Kashmir, which I will speak about…Now, what you are fiddling with is extremely dangerous and it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of history.

There was a reason Ashoka used to go and put his pillars everywhere, because it was a Union of States where Ashoka, the great king respected everybody. You are disrespecting everybody. Disrespect me, I don’t care; it doesn’t matter to me, but you cannot disrespect the people of this country…

A few days ago, some political leader, I am not going to name, came to me from Manipur and he was very agitated. He says, Rahul Ji, I have never felt as insulted as I have, a few days ago. He said, ‘Rahul Ji, a delegation of senior Manipuri political leaders went to see the Home Minister. Outside his house, we were told to take off our shoes and when we went inside his room, we found that the Home Minister was wearing his chappals’.

Why is it that in the Home Minister’s house, the Home Minister can wear chappals, but a delegation of Manipur politicians cannot? What does this mean? Why? This is not the way to deal with the people of India.

Speaker Sir, it reflects a mentality. It reflects a sense that I am bigger than you. You are nobody, I am everybody. That is why, I will wear my shoes and you will not.

The nation is weakened & at risk:

My understanding is that RSS and the BJP are playing with the foundations of our country and they are weakening the foundations of our country. They are weakening the links between our people. They are weakening the links between our languages. Now, they have further weakened the country by ensuring that not a single Indian youngster can get a job. So today, unlike a decade ago, 15 years ago, India is weak.

Ask yourselves, why you are not able to get a guest on Republic Day, ask yourself that question. Don’t look surprised, ask yourself that question. What is happening that India today is completely isolated? We are completely isolated and surrounded. We are surrounded in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, everywhere we are surrounded and our opponents understand our position.

We have been weakened. The conversation between our people is not taking place. Our institutions are under attack and we are completely surrounded.

The Chinese have a very clear vision of what they want to do. They are very-very clear about what they want to do…you can ask anybody who understands, the single biggest strategic goal of India’s foreign policy has been to keep Pakistan and China separate. This is fundamental for India and what you have done is, you have brought them together. Today, do not be under any illusion. Do not underestimate the power that stands in front of us, do not underestimate it.

China has a clear vision, and… China has a plan. I can see that China has a clear-cut plan. The foundations of their plan have been put in place in Doklam and in Ladakh. Do not underestimate what we are facing. This is a very-very serious threat to the Indian nation.

We have made huge strategic mistakes in Jammu and Kashmir, we have made huge strategic mistake in our foreign policy and if we do not correct those mistakes…what are the mistakes? I have just told you, you have brought China and Pakistan together, you have taken the concept of two different fronts and converted it into one unified front and by the way, in case you haven’t realised this, in case you haven’t understood what is going on, it is very clear that the Chinese and the Pakistanis are planning. Look at the weapons that they are buying, look at their activity, look at the way they are talking, look at who they are speaking to.

I am clearly stating that we have made a massive blunder and we need to make sure, absolutely sure, that we can defend ourselves against the Chinese. Please remember what I am saying, because the Chinese will …(inaudible). Remember what I am saying and remember that you will be responsible for anything that happens, that is why it is important that as a nation we start this conversation.

It is important as a nation that you listen to what we say, because we have experience, we have understanding. You might not think so, but we have people on this side, who understand these things, have great understanding. Use us. The nation is at risk. The nation is at risk from outside.

The nation is at risk from inside and that is a very dangerous place for a nation to be and I don’t like it. I am very uncomfortable with my nation, with my beloved country standing where it is standing. Completely isolated on the outside, fighting on the inside, institutions captured, states are not able to speak to each other. This worries me.

I know that many of you will just rubbish what I am saying. I understand it that you would have been told to do so and I am happy to let you do it, but remember what I said. You are putting this nation, this wonderful nation and its people at huge risk.

Thank you!

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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