Washington: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies, accusing him of causing “tremendous damage” to India’s economy with “reckless and dangerous” decisions like demonetisation and “hastily-applied” Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Gandhi, 47, who arrived in the US on Monday on a two- weeklong tour, addressed students at the University of California, Berkeley, to reflect on contemporary India and the path forward for the world’s largest democracy.
He said the November 8 demonetisation decision was taken without asking the Chief Economic Advisor and Parliament, which caused tremendous damage to the economy.
Demonetisation, he alleged, imposed a devastating cost on India.
“Ignoring India’s tremendous institutional knowledge and taking such decisions is reckless and dangerous,” he charged.
He said 30,000 new youngsters were joining the job market every single day and the government was only creating 500 jobs a day.
“This does not include the massive pool of already employed youngsters,” he said.
“The decline in economic growth today is leading to an upsurge of anger in the country. The government’s economic policies demonetisation and hastily-applied GST have caused tremendous damage,” he alleged.
Goods and Services Tax, a tax regime which combines all of India’s states and union territories into a single market, was launched at midnight on June 30.
Gandhi also accused the government of wiping out millions by demonetisation.
“Millions of small businesses were simply wiped out as a result of the demonetisation, farmers and many who use cash were hit extremely hard. Agriculture is in deep distress and farmers suicides have skyrocketed across the country.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, had said the fallout of demonetisation was on predicted lines and the economy will benefit in medium and long term.
“Our success impacts the world,” Gandhi said, warning that this momentum can be destroyed by “hatred, anger and violence”.
“The politics of polarisation has raised its ugly head in India,” he said, adding that liberal journalists are being shot.
He was apparently referring to rights activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh’s killing.
“People being lynched because they are Dalit,” he alleged.
“Muslims were killed on suspicion of eating beef. This is new in India and damages India very badly.”
He said the politics of hate divided and polarised India and was making millions of people feel that they have no future in their own country.
“In today’s connected world this is extremely dangerous,” he said.
Gandhi at the same time also acknowledged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a better communicator than him.
“I’m an opposition leader. But Mr Modi is also my prime minister. Mr Modi has certain skills. He’s a very good communicator. Probably much better than me. He understands how to give a message to three or four different groups in a crowd. So his messaging abilities very subtle and very effective,” Gandhi said.
Rahul Gandhi also said that he was “absolutely ready” to take up an executive responsibility if the party asked him to do so.