Indian National congress president Rahul Gandhi visits Sheikh Zayed Masjid in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not an inspiration but his teacher, as Modi and his party have taught him many lessons with their attacks against him.

“[The ruling] BJP [ Bharatiya Janata Party] and Modi taught me a lot [with their attacks against me]. They helped me understand [many things]. In that way he [Modi] is my teacher,” said Gandhi in response to a question from the audience about combating fake news while speaking at an event hosted by the Indian Business and Professional Group (IBPG) in the Dusit Thani Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Although fake news is a serious issue that has to be fought, he said he was not overly bothered. “Frankly speaking, truth always wins,” he added to the applause of the audience.

To a lighter question on whether ”Modi as a single man was an inspiration to you to remain single [even at the age of 48],” he replied: “He [Modi] is not single and he is not my inspiration.”

‘Marriage up to destiny’

Gandhi said now he dedicates his full time to his party and the country and is leaving marriage up to destiny to decide, adding “I believe in destiny.”

He made a five-minute introductory speech, spent over 30 minutes answering questions from the audience, and offered impressive responses that frequently received unending applause.

About his party’s economic policy, Gandhi said Congress would continue the economic liberalisation initiated by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, the basic infrastructure of education and health care would be funded.

Indian National Congress President Rahul Gandhi during the IBPG meeting at Dusit Thani hotel in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Giving “banking access and political access” to small and medium businesses will generate employment opportunities, which is a major challenge in India, he said.

“Monopolisation of the banking sector by 15 to 20 major players is a major problem,” he added while attacking the existing ‘crony capitalism’.

“I like the idea of ‘Make in India’ [a campaign initiated by Modi].” However, Gandhi said small and medium businesses should get more opportunities.

In his speech, he said his party was in the midst of an ideological battle. “There are two different ideas of India”. One is liberal and inclusive and the other is divisive. The triumph in this battle will decide which direction India will move, he said.

About his key performance index [KPIs], Gandhi said winning the election would be his first KPI.

Sam Pitroda, president of the Indian Overseas Congress, also addressed the gathering along with B.R Shetty, chairman of IBPG; Yousuf Ali M.A., vice-chairman of IBPG, Padmanabha Acharya, president of IBPG; Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, immediate past president of IBPG.

Congress manifesto to include NRI representation

India’s main opposition party Indian National Congress will include a proposal to give representation to Non-Resident Indians [NRIs] in the Indian legislative and governing system, said the party’s president Rahul Gandhi in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

“I am all for representation of NRIs,” he said. “I am going to push for it,” he added, while answering a question on whether NRIs would be able to vote in April’s general election in India.

He pointed out that proxy voting would be possible in the next general elections. The party will invite NRI representatives to India to discuss this issue before finalising the manifesto [for this year’s national elections], he said without specifying his preferred way of voting for NRIs.

He said NRIs could influence change in India. “Whenever there was change in India, not small changes but exponential change, NRIs had a role.”

He pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi and father of Indian white revolution Varghese Kurian were NRIs. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sam Pitroda [who was instrumental in India’s telecom revolution] had also lived abroad, he added.