"Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast, (M K) Stalin is a dynast, Dhumal's son (Anurag Thakur) is a dynast... even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast. I mean that's how India's runs... So don't get after me as that's how the entire country is running," Rahul told an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, on Tuesday.
Rahul did say that he was trying to change things and there were people without affiliations in his party, but rounded off by saying "but there are also people who had a father or grandmother or a great grandfather in politics. Not much I can do about it," in a clear allusion to his own political lineage.
BJP jumped on the remarks to say Rahul had forgotten the contribution of several leaders who had contributed to the making of India and said it stood as a contrast as the top posts of PM, President and Vice-President were currently held by individuals hailing from modest backgrounds with no dynasties.
Congress leaders defended Rahul, saying merit was decided by popular approval and generations of Gandhis were involved in public service. "Yes, it is true that there are dynasties in India. There have been dynasties in many countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and both the Americas," Congress leader Anand Sharma said. Digvijay Singh tweeted that politics was no different from other sectors and people would decide.
Rahul also used the occasion to strongly criticise PM Narendra Modi and BJP for whipping up an atmosphere of intolerance and referred to the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. "Hatred, anger and violence and the politics of polarization has raised its ugly head in India today. Liberal journalists being shot, people being lynched because they are Dalits, Muslims killed on suspicion of eating beef, this is new in India and damages India very badly," he said.
Rahul warned that such polarization would drive people towards radical ideas. He also accused Modi of being part of a social media operation to run him down. "There is a BJP machine. A thousand guys sitting on computers telling you about me. It's a tremendous machine, all day they spread abuse about me, say that I'm a 'reluctant' politician... and the operation is run by the gentleman who is running our country," he said.
He also said he was ready to step forward to take up the mantle of Congress leadership — a remark which appeared to include being the prime ministerial candidate of his party in the near future and his likely assumption of the party president's post. On the dynast issue, he added that the real question was whether the person actually was a capable and sensitive person.
Rahul said the philosophy of non-violence had helped India tide over the critical post-Partition phase and held the diverse cultural land together, proving wrong the western commentariat that India would fall apart after Independence.
The remarks touching upon contemporary issues involving the Modi regime — ranging from criticism of demonetisation and joblessness to praise for Make in India and Swachh Bharat and for the PM's communication skills — raised the profile of Rahul's two-week tour to the US which started on Monday.
While Rahul's previous foreign trips were quiet and drew criticism from within and outside as "vacations", the Congress heir apparent has surprised by turning a new leaf and stepping up to a tough interaction with a young university crowd. Its effect was evident in the buzz it created in Congress circles and the impact it had on the news cycle.
(Source: The Times Of India)