CHENNAI: Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday promised 33 per cent reservation of government jobs for women and reforms in the Goods and Services Tax(GST) if the party-led UPA wins the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Launching the UPA’s campaign in Tamil Nadu during a hectic day-long visit to the southern state, Gandhi also asserted law must not be applied selectively and that if his brother-in-law Robert Vadra can be probed for any alleged irregularities so can Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged role in the Rafale jet deal.
Gandhi touched upon a range of issues during his informal interaction with students of Stella Maris College for Women and at a news conference in Chennai and a poll rally in Nagercoil.
He listed unemployment and farmers distress as the key issues for the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress has tied up with DMK in Tamil Nadu where 39 seats are at stake.
Observing there were not many women in leadership positions, Gandhi said if his party comes to power it will reserve 33 per cent of all government jobs at the national level for women.
“One of the things that we have decided that in 2019 we are going to pass the women’s reservation bill in Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabhas and we are also going to reserve 33 per cent of all government jobs at the national level for women. That is a starting point,” he said in a response to a question by a student.
Wearing jeans and T-shirt, Gandhi also said he has “genuine” affection for Narendra Modi and that is what he tried to show when he hugged the prime minister after watching him become “very angry” in Parliament.
During his interaction, he recalled the day he hugged Modi in the Lok Sabha and said he cannot hate him since love “is in the country’s grain, every religion, and the Tamil people”.
When a student asked why he chose to hug the prime minister, Gandhi said he watched a ‘very angry’ Modi in Parliament running down his party, his late father Rajiv Gandhi and mother Sonia.
However, deep inside, he said, he felt affection for Modi and he thought the prime minister was angry “because he is not able to see the beauty of the world”.
“So I thought that at least from my side, I should show him some affection.”
When Gandhi said, “I genuinely feel love for the prime minister,” the students broke into laughter and raised their voices, to which he repeated, “I genuinely do (love him).”
Gandhi, who asked the students to challenge him and “make him uncomfortable”, also questioned whether the prime minister could stand in a large audience and answer people’s questions.
Exuding confidence that a Congress-led Opposition would emerge victorious in the Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi promised initiatives such as reforms in the goods and services tax(GST), encompassing its simplest form, and a “phenomenal and revolutionary idea” of a minimum income guarantee scheme.
He also said economic growth is directly related to the mood of the nation and one cannot expect it to happen in a negative and fearful atmosphere.
Congress will change the mood of the country and make people feel happy and empowered, the Congress chief said.
Gandhi, who asked students to refer to him as Rahul, said the law must apply to everybody and not be applied selectively.
He said this in response to a question on Vadra, who is being probed in connection with a money laundering case related to purchase of assets abroad and a land case in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district.
During his interaction, he also brought up the issue of the Rafale deal and reiterated his allegations about the pricing of the aircraft and the process.
“I will be the first person to say it. Investigate Robert Vadra but also investigate Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.
Modi is a “corrupt” man, he bypassed negotiations and ran parallel negotiations on the Rafale deal, Gandhi alleged while responding to the question.
The Congress chief said the prime minister should have the guts to face the media and asked why Modi was “hiding”.
The BJP and the government have repeatedly rejected Congress’ allegation of corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
He also alleged that the BJP’s idea is to capture every institution of the country and run them from Nagpur, the RSS headquarters.
At his news conference, Gandhi said he harboured no hatred towards those convicted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and asserted that it was for the courts to decide on their release.
On Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, the Congress chief said it had two aspects.
“While one was personal, which we have dealt with, the other was the legal issue, which has to take its course. Whatever course the legal issue takes, we are happy with it,” Gandhi said.
“We are quite forgiving people. We do not have animosity or hatred towards anybody and it is for the courts to decide (on the convicts’ release).”
Months ago, the Tamil Nadu government recommended the release of seven convicts in the case to Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
The move was fully backed by all state parties.
At his public rally, Gandhi launched a frontal attack on the AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu, alleging the AIADMK government was controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office, something that has never happened before.
“In the past DMK and AIADMK fought each other, there were big leaders on both sides. However, never was a government in Tamil Nadu controlled from Delhi,” Gandhi said, kickstarting his campaign in Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district.