New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi continues to shock – recently in London and now in Dubai – even as the grand old party that he presides over has been unceremoniously left out of a critical political alliance in Uttar Pradesh.
Preaching his peculiar brand of native wisdom once again in an overseas land, Gandhi continues his imitation of Narendra Modi’s overseas outreach. In copying chapter and verse from the prime minister’s playbook, the Gandhi has drawn attention to the age-old axiom – imitations can never be like the original product, no matter the amount of flattery that your minders slobber you with.
The Congress president told a gathering of non-resident Indians in Dubai that Mahatma Gandhi picked up his idea of non-violence from ancient Indian philosophy. And then he paused to say: “He (Mahatma Gandhi) picked it from Islam”.
Gandhi probably confused Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle with Islam with Gandhi’s formation of an alliance with a range of Muslim leaders —clerics, Oxford and Cambridge graduates, businessmen, even poets — and named it Khilafat, or Caliphate, movement. But the current Congress president forgot that the Father of the Nation did not actually believe in a caliphate. It was his idea to involve Indian Muslims in the mass movement for the country’s freedom.
Political cognoscenti in India expressed surprise at the statement, with some being reminded of Gandhi’s interactions with NRIs in London where he had drawn fire by comparing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the banned Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Those comments had drawn a sharp riposte from the BJP, which criticised Gandhi for embarrassing India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Earlier, during a visit to Germany, Gandhi had made similar derogatory remarks against the Indian government.
Dubai was no different. Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with NRIs revolved around his continued lampooning of the BJP-led NDA government in India in front of an invited audience from among the 30 million strong community that forms nearly one-third of the UAE’s population.
“Tolerance is embedded in our culture,” he said in Dubai. “But we have seen a lot of anger, division among communities for the last four-and-a-half years. It stems from the mentality of the people in power.” the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
The Congress President, currently on his first visit to the United Arab Emirates, said India was capable of absorbing multiple ideas. “India has shaped ideas and ideas have shaped India,” he said. “Listening to other people is also an idea of India.”
In his repeated efforts to criticise the Indian government, even on foreign soil, Gandhi missed a billion-dollar chance to tell NRIs in Dubai what they most needed to hear. He did not tell the blue-collar workers – who waited in Dubai’s blistering heat with placards to greet him – that he would work to ensure that their rights are protected and enhanced in such lands. He also did not assure them of orderly and regular migration opportunities if the Congress were to come to power in 2019. Migration to the Gulf has dipped sharply in the recent past as countries like Saudi Arabi push employment for their citizens, leading to a near 80 per cent drop in the migration of Indian workers to the oil rich kingdom.
He missed no opportunity to score political points, even talking about special status for Andhra Pradesh – a topic of very little interest for most listeners. At the Jebel Ali Industrial Area Labour Camp in Dubai, the Congress president merely said he was standing with them.
Gandhi continued to talk about what he called were very disturbing developments in India. “We don’t like an India where journalists are shot, where people are killed for what they say. That is something we want to change, that is the challenge in the upcoming elections,” PTI quoted him as saying during his interactions.
The Congress president also met some workers face-to-face and listened to some of their stories about the challenges of working overseas. Over 90 per cent of the migrant workers in the Arab Gulf are semi-skilled and unskilled workers, many live through tremendous hardships because of local regulations. Data shows an estimated 24,570 Indian workers have died in the Gulf nations since 2012.
Gandhi did not talk about the ground realities. He did not talk about oil price fluctuations across the UAE and how it was triggering an economic slowdown, pushing companies to cut costs. He did not talk about how hundreds of migrants go without salary, food and accommodation. Many Indian workers continue to be duped with fake job offers. Last month, newspaper reports said around 40 Indians were left in lurch by a construction company in Ajman, one of the six Emirates in the UAE. Often these workers have often complained that when they return to India empty handed, neither the Centre or the state governments take responsibility for their rehabilitation.
Many migrant workers felt they would have loved to hear from Gandhi what the Congress could do for their welfare, especially as migrants annually remit $70 billion – making India the world’s largest recipient of remittances.
This story by Shantanu Gura Ray was first reported here