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Kumari to Kashmir: Rahul Takes on Range of Questions
Amid his tight schedule of addressing various sections across the country as part of poll campaigns, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who landed in Chennai on Wednesday, fielded several surprising questions on a wide range of issues concerning the country and the state from a young group, students.
Making the vision of Congress in improving the education sector clear, he assured that his party, if voted to power, would allocate an additional 6% from the expenditure for higher education in the country.
He said that his party, if voted to power, would not only spend more money for higher education, but also ensuring independent functioning of the institutions. “All the institutions should be free to challenge with their ideas”, he said. Rahul, clad in jeans and T-shirt, stepped into the venue to a wave of huge cheers and applause from the massive gathering of students. Striking a close chord with the youngsters (of course many first-time voters in the crowd), Rahul made a humble appeal not to address him sir and call him by his name itself. “I’m still a young politician,” he told the students.
Sharing his views on women’s inequality and discrimination, Rahul Gandhi said more women should be elevated to leadership level.
“The Congress has decided to give adequate representation for women. In line with this, it has been decided to allot 33% of Lok Sabha seats, 33 per cent of Rajya Sabha seats to them. We have also taken decision at the national government level, to reserve 33 per cent quota in government jobs for women”, he informed.
On the status of women in the country he said it was better in South India compare to north. “There is the cultural aspect and still a lot need to be done in Tamil Nadu,” he added.
Volley of unexpected queries
Among several surprising questions, one of the students sought to know why he hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Parliament recently.
“Love is the foundation of every religion whether it is Hinduism, Islam or Christianity. I was following the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament where he was criticising my father, grandmother, great grandfather and the Congress,” he pointed out adding “Inside me, I was having an affectionate feeling towards him. Modi was so angry that he was not able to see the beauty of the world,” the Congress president said.
“I felt the Prime Minister didn’t have the love he expected. I wanted to show my affection and hugged him,” Gandhi said.
Even as the Rahul was blasting the BJP-led Centre for ‘facilitating’ tainted businessmen like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and others to flee the country, a student confronted the Congress president asking why he chose to ignore the name of Robert Vadra.
Rahul asked “What? about him.. (Vadra). The government has every right and should investigate every single person. The law must not be applied selectively. I am the first person to say investigate Vadra. So, investigate the Prime Minister too.”
Rahul said Prime Minister of the country himself has his name in government documents saying that he was responsible for parallel negotiations with Dassault in the Rafale jet purchase deal.
Jammu and Kashmir issues
On Jammu and Kashmir, the AICC president said the first step should be to build a bridge with the people of that state. It happened between 2004 and 2014 during the UPA government, he claimed.
“As a result, the number of terror attacks came down drastically and power was given to the people by holding elections in the state”, he said adding “Pakistan will carry out terror attack. But we have to engage with the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Gandhi said if Modi embraces the Kashmiris, then people will reciprocate
Later in the day, Rahul Gandhi, addressing a press meet, assured that the GST will be simplified if the UPAcomes to power.
“Now GST is too complicated with five layers. It made difficult for small businessmen. Therefore, the UPA government will simplify the procedures of GST and have a low single tax rate”, he told reporters.
The Congress leader also said banks will be open to small businessmen, who are most prospective in providing employment. “Currently, the job creators are under attack”, he said
To a query on the Tamil Nadu fishermen issue, Rahul said “we are clear in our manifesto that a dedicated Ministry for fisheries will be set up.
On the farmer’s issue, Rahul pointed out “I have seen the farmers of Tamil Nadu in Jantar Mantar, I remember that. I also remember the response of the government to those people.”
When asked about the release of convicts of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Rahul said “as far as assassination of my father is concerned, there is a personal issue for me and my family which we have dealt with and there is a legal issue”
“The legal issue has to take its own course. We are forgiving people and we don’t have any animosity or hatred against anybody.
When asked whether the Rafale deal would be cancelled if the UPA comes to power, the Congress president said “it is a technical decision. We do not have information on that. But the question of corruption is crystal clear’.
TO ‘SIR’ WITH LOVE
During the interactive session, Azra, a student from the Department of Finance at Stella Maris college, began the first question by addressing Rahul Gandhi as ‘sir.’ But when Rahul interrupted her and said, “Please call me Rahul. I feel more comfortable,” Azra’s instant candid expression where she stuck her tongue out won fans across Twitter, and she also got loud cheers from fellow students when she called him ‘Rahul’ again.