Rahul Gandhi: “The art of listening is very powerful”

- Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 07th March 2023 11:19 EST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited the UK and spoke at various events about the idea behind and learnings from his Bharat Jodo Yatra especially the ‘power of listening’, which he reiterated at his speech in Chatham House on Monday 6 March. 

During his 10-day visit, at an exclusive interaction with the Indian journalists based in the UK, organised by Indian Journalists’ Association on Saturday 4 March, he spoke about his own evolution as a more patient man with a newfound tolerance of pain. He also spoke about demonetisation, the rise of Gautam Adani in three years from 609th richest to the second richest man in India, about the BBC documentary on Narendra Modi, the ‘suppression of voices in India’, the ‘new idea of India’ under BJP-rule which he alleged was about ‘silencing and attacking the institutional structure of the Indian democracy’. 

His broad message at a gathering in the Parliament on Monday 6 March touched upon issues of unemployment, rising costs, inequality and violence, especially against women in India. 

Meeting the diaspora organised by Indian Overseas Congress in West London on Sunday 5 March, he also focussed on the issues such as safety of women. 


Meeting the members of Indian Journalists’ Association 


Speaking about the BBC documentary controversy involving PM Narendra Modi, Mr Gandhi said, “The reason the Bharat Jodo Yatra became necessary is because the structures of our democracy are under brutal attack,” he said.

He added, “The BJP wants India to be silent. They want it to be quiet… because they want to be able to take what is India’s and give it to their close friends. That’s the idea, to distract the population and then hand over India’s wealth to three, four, five people."

When asked why he was “defaming India in foreign soil” he strongly refuted the allegation saying, PM Modi started it all on foreign soil, by saying how nothing had been done in India in the last 60-70 years. 

“He has insulted every Indian and their grandparents by saying that India has lost a decade, and he said all this on a foreign soil."

While Mr Gandhi opposed the idea of him standing as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2024 general election, he spoke about the party’s vision to ‘save’ India’s economy. 

Answering our question, he emphasised on production, support for SMEs and agriculture to be the key. He said, “The United States, India, Germany, Japan, Korea, these used to be production centres. And the Chinese have now wrapped up, they're much better at it. I don't appreciate the way they do it. They do it more simply they do it using force. So, I believe that a model for production in democratic countries is absolutely critical to the growth. And I think there's a lot of work that can be done between England, India, the United States, Germany…”

He further added, “In India, there is two or three times this massive concentration of wealth. The entire banking system is being used to protect one gentleman for one gentleman's businesses. And that needs to change. So, there are clusters, of production in India all across the country. The millions of people who are ready to produce and the banking system needs to be opened up to them. Small and medium businesses should get bank loans, and small and medium businesses should have technological support. And I am not saying that there is no role for large businesses, there is. But there shouldn't be a role for complete and absolute monopoly. I think agriculture is a huge problem too. One of the things that I have heard throughout my walk was the agricultural industry. And India needs to talk about agriculture in the 21st century. It needs to talk a bit about developing the cold chain and needs to think about how to create jobs.”


Addressing Parliamentarians at House of Commons


Virendra Sharma MP, Chair of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) welcomed back Indian MP Rahul Gandhi in UK’s Parliament since his last trip in 2018. There were around 90 people in the Committee room which included MPs, Lords, councillors, policymakers, academics and community members. 

Among the guests were London’s Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal, Seema Malhotra MP, Valerie Vaz MP, Navendu Mishra MP, Tan Dhesi MP, Gareth Thomas MP, Tulip Siddique MP, Lord Navnit Dholakia and Lord Karan Bilimoria to name a few. The conversation was chaired by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of the London School of Economics and Sanam Arora from National Indian Students and Alumni UK (NISAU). 
Mr Gandhi talked about free speech and his pride in the diaspora in the UK. He added, that narrative in India has to change to grow with production and employment. He added, “The UK has high technology and there can be a chance of synergy. We cannot leave millions of our population unemployed.”
When asked if India is put on global map by PM Modi, as millennials would like to believe, he opposed by saying, “India’s position is much more than what a government says…

“Congress party is an idea, and that BJP is unbeatable is a narrative in the media. I listen to people on the ground. There is a strong undercurrent against the government, and there is severe unemployment, and we must listen to that. If democracy is weak or crumbles, it will affect the world, as India’s democracy is much bigger in size than Europe or even the US.”


Rahul Gandhi speaks at Chatham House


Speaking at the Chatham House, Mr Gandhi interacted with the audience, one of who said she no longer can recognise the country she was born into (India) and raised in, like many other Indians. 

The leader explaining BJP's ideological model, referred to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), calling it a "fundamentalist" and "fascist" organisation, and a "secret society" that is “built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood and the idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then subvert the democratic contest afterwards. And it shocked me at how successful they have been at capturing the different institutions of our country.”

When asked what led to Congress’ failure in the 2014 elections, he said the “UPA government missed the shift in political discourse from the rural to urban space.”

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, reportedly severely criticised Mr Gandhi, accusing him of defaming India abroad. 


Lecture at Cambridge University


Mr Gandhi, who is a Visiting Fellow of the Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge JBS), delivered a student-only lecture at the University on the topic of "Learning to Listen in the 21st Century'. 

The lecture reportedly was divided into three key parts. First, he spoke about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, for about 4,000 km (about 2486 miles), through 12 States of India from September 2022 to January 2023. His aim was to draw attention to "prejudice, unemployment and growing inequality in India".

The second part of his lecture reportedly focussed on the ‘two divergent perspectives’ of the US and China since World War II, especially since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the Indian Express. 

The last part of his lecture was around the theme of ‘Imperative for a Global Conversation.'

The ANI reported that he also alleged that the Israeli-made spyware Pegasus was used to tap his conversations on his phone. He claimed that intelligence officers apparently asked him to be “careful” while talking on the phone.

According to the news agency ANI, Mr Gandhi said, “I myself had Pegasus on my phone. Large number of politicians have Pegasus on their phones. I’ve been called by Intelligence officers who say please be careful of what you say on your phone as we are recording the stuff”.

Reacting to the Congress leader’s comments, Anurag Singh Thakur, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Sports and Youth Affairs said that ‘Pegasus is in Mr Gandhi’s mind, nowhere else’, reported the ANI. 

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