Rahul Gandhi faced some uncomfortable questions when he went for an interactive session at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the bastion of Left-leaning students, on Tuesday.
“Opposition first,” said Mr. Gandhi indicating towards some students who were holding black flags and shouting slogans to oppose his visit.
A student asked why the government has given “huge subsidy” to corporate houses while the cost of higher education is going to increase according to the latest HRD circular.
“You seem be the follower of Left-ideology,” Mr. Gandhi responded. “The UPA government aims at distribution of growth, but the Left only talks of distribution. They have no way to grow.”
To the discomfort of young Congress leader, a student said, “Rahul bhai, you are a real rajneta. You are speaking so much but answering nothing.”
“Mr. Gandhi, I am not here to ask you anything related to fake encounters in Manipur, ’84 anti-Sikh riots or farmers dying in Vidarbha. You talk of democratisation and participation. Please tell me who chose you as a leader,” was a question from one of the students.
Mr. Gandhi promptly replied that the questioner had not seen his capability. “I have three options, to sit quietly, to propagate the system or to question the system. I have chosen the last one.”
At one stage, he said JNU students are considered intelligent but wondered why no one has asked him a question relating to long-term benefits for the country.
When asked about the Right to Education Bill by JNUSU general secretary Sucheta De, Mr. Gandhi admitted he had no knowledge about it and would look into the matter.
The Congress leader had to pitch in with NSUI leaders to answer some questions.
Seeking to silence his critics who question his visits to the houses of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he said people had wholeheartedly welcomed him. “When I go to their houses, they welcome and cuddle me and say you are the first politician who has come to meet us,” Mr. Gandhi said asking why his visits to the houses of the poor were being criticised.
“If one politician goes to a Dalit’s house, you ask why do you go to a Dalit’s house. When thousands of leaders do not visit Dalit houses, you do not ask them why do they not go.”
“I go to a poor man’s house. It is the media which say it is a Dalit or an Adivasi’s house.”
To queries about hierarchal system in politics, including of his lineage, the young Congress leader said “the hierarchal system exists. It is a reality. But, what is the option before me?
“I can either propagate the system or change it. I am not the one to propagate it so I am trying to change it. You do not like the system, even I do not like it. We have to work together to change it,” he said.
The 39-year old Congress general secretary noted at one stage that the students were asking him “difficult” questions but said he was ready to answer them all.