In comments that may be seen as an attack on Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said alienation of minorities hurts the country’s growth as he reached out to the industry for parternship in building a “brave empowered India” with inclusiveness and compassion.

In his first elaborate interaction with the industry, the 42-year-old, a probable Prime Ministerial candidate of the Congress, dubbed as “irrelevant” the talk about whether or not he would lead the country, saying one individual could not address all the complex problems of the country.

Mr. Gandhi shared his vision with top business leaders of the country during an hour-long interaction at CII meet here, emphasising on the need for bringing about structural changes to empower common people and providing basic infrastructure in all respects.

“Let us work together to build a brave empowered India,” Mr. Gandhi said while inviting the business to partner the government in ensuring growth.

Underlining that the Congress is the only party which believes in taking everyone along, he said the country has witnessed faster economic growth under the UPA because it had greatly lowered tensions among communities and fostered harmony.

“When you play the politics of alienating communities, you stop the movement of people and ideas. When that happens we all suffer. Businesses suffer and the seeds of disharmony are sown and the dreams of our people are severely disrupted,” he said, adding that this damage takes a very long time to reverse.

“The biggest danger is excluding people, including the poor, minorities and dalits... Anger, hatred and prejudice do not help growth. If you alienate communities we all suffer,” he said in comments that could be seen as an attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is accused of being discriminatory towards minorities.

Rahul targets whom, asks Sinha

Reacting to Mr. Gandhi's comments, the Bharatiya Janata Party MP Yashwant Sinha said he was “perplexed” by what Mr. Gandhi had said but maintained he had been relevant in some parts.

“Who was he criticising? Certainly not us as we have not been in power for the last several years. Was he targeting his family or his party?” Mr. Sinha said.

The BJP leader maintained there were contradictions in Mr. Gandhi’s speech. “On behalf of his party, he could have said this is what could be done. But he only shared a set of platitudes,” Mr. Sinha said.

Asked how he would compare Mr. Gandhi with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who many see as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr. Sinha said, “It will be very unfair to Rahul Gandhi to compare him with Modi because there is no comparison. I don’t want to be harsh on the young man.”

Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain voiced his disappointment over Mr. Gandhi not speaking about corruption and price rise.

“We hoped that he would speak on corruption and inflation, but he has disappointed the nation. Rahul spoke about giving powers to ‘pradhan’ but not giving power to ‘pradhan mantri’ (Prime Minister),” Mr. Hussain said.