New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday lashed out at the ruling BJP and its ideological mentor RSS and accused the Narendra Modi government of using its brand of discipline to "kill individuality" among Indians. The BJP hit back, saying his comments showed his "immaturity and foolishness".
"Have you seen an RSS shakha? Everyone stands in a straight line. If someone utters anything, he is silenced with a lathi," Gandhi said in a short but power-packed speech in Hindi at a convention here of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI).
"Discipline is an excuse for them to murder individuality. They are attempting to silence the lakhs of voices in India with this excuse of discipline. They want to kill individuality in India," he said.
Gandhi, who was clad in a white kurta and blue jeans, compared the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's 'dhwaj pranam' (flag salutation) to the Nazi salute.
"I don't know how they salute with their hands, but it is similar to how they saluted in Germany. I would never do it," Gandhi said, in an obvious comparison of the RSS with the Nazis.
Gandhi said the Congress, on the other hand, respected individuality.
"Earlier, I used to think why we can't have order in the Congress? Now after 10 years, I have realised that we don't have order as our organisation is able to listen to everyone. It is in our DNA.
"We imbibe all the complexity in Indians and we can reach a compromise within half an hour. In the Congress, we have internal dialogue. They don't have it in their party and are trying to implement the same in the country."
Taking a dig at Modi, the Congress vice president said the prime minister must have taken lessons on how to improve the country's economy from former prime minister Manmohan Singh when they met on Wednesday.
"Yesterday (Wednesday), Manmohan Singh-ji said the state of the country's economy was bad, following which the prime minister (Modi) took classes from our prime minister (Manmohan Singh) for an hour on how to revive the economy," Gandhi said.
He also accused Modi of failing to take care of the country's farmers.
"Modi-ji in his speeches had said he would help the poor but the fact is that he has been to France, the US, Japan, China, Nepal and even Mongolia, but is yet to visit the house of a poor farmer," said Gandhi, as the audience cheered and applauded.
Modi had promised to bring back black money within 100 days, but it has been one year and he has not done anything, Gandhi said.
He also accused the NDA government of trying to saffronise higher education.
"The prime minister had said education is empowerment but, on the other hand, he cuts the budget for the department," he said, and accused the RSS of interfering in the functioning of the human resource development ministry.
Gandhi exhorted NSUI members to stop the RSS from implementing its ideology in the country.
"The university system is the future of the country. Tell the students that we want that they should think on their own. Go and spread the Congress ideology."
In a tongue-in-cheek comment, Gandhi told NSUI members that in this regard, they would not have to work very hard.
"The government is making mistakes one after another. Whether it is farmers' issues or 'Make in India'," he said.
He criticised the 'Make In India' campaign, claiming that the initiative will fail because it had the backing of only a handful of rich industrialists, and not the support of the poor people of the country.
"'Make in India' will be zero soon," he said.
Reacting to Gandhi's tirade, the BJP said his comments showed his "immaturity and foolishness".
"The party, which is run by only three members of a family, has no right to give us lessons on democracy," BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao told IANS.
The RSS, on its part, said Gandhi's utterances expose his frustration and ignorance about the organisation.
"The RSS is experiencing growing admiration, support and participation from the society, particularly the youth," senior RSS functionary Manmohan Vaidya said.