On his first foreign tour after taking charge as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi not only promised a “shining new Congress” to the Indian diaspora in Bahrain on Monday but also a roadmap of his future political strategy.
Describing himself as a ‘bridge’ between the NRI community and India while speaking at an event organised by Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Mr Gandhi said, “People forget this. But our greatest leaders, whether it is Mahatma Gandhiji, whether it is Jawaharlal Nehruji, whether it is Mr. Ambedkar, all of them were once NRIs, all of them were once what you are.”
Since the early 90s, the BJP has always actively engaged with the NRI community and has an official wing called Overseas Friends of the BJP whose members act global ambassadors of the party. But Congress’ engagement with the diaspora has been limited, if not muted.
So, Mr. Gandhi’s visit to the Gulf region –Bahrain – that has over 35 lakh Indians is a clear signal to scale up Congress’ engagement with non-resident Indians. After Bahrain, Mr. Gandhi would be visiting countries such as Canada and Singapore followed by another one to the West Asia.
The first such interaction with the Indian diaspora for Mr. Gandhi was organised last September when he spoke to students at the University of California in Berkeley and Times Square in New York.
“I want to build systems in the Congress that will allow NRIs to guide us when we think about a vision for India. I want you to feel that even though you live outside India, you are fully involved with the future and growth of India,” said Mr Gandhi during the interactive session at the GOPIO event.
“It is important that you connect with the rest of the world, Indians, foreigners and other people. It helps them to understand your perspective and you to understand theirs. The engagement not only deepen understanding but also bonds,’said Manish Tewari of the Congress who organised a meeting of Mr Gandhi with the policy experts at the Atlantic Council, a well known US policy think tank.
Congress’ outreach is also aimed at roping in NRI talent to provide solutions back home. The Congress leader made it clear that creating jobs, revamping education and pitching India as a healthcare hub are the key focus areas.
And to create jobs, for the Congress chief, small is beautiful. “There are millions of youngsters in India, who are innovative, who are inventing things but they don’t have access to finance. You need to find them, support them and give them finance. These are the type of things we would look into,” he said.
Talking about farmers and fishing community, the Congress leader said they have similar problems and if his party comes to power, a separate ministry for fishing would be created on the lines of agriculture ministry. “There would be a fishing ministry that would take care of fishermen who are engaged in inland fishing and coastal fishing.”
The Congress chief clearly signalled that the party’s focus is now to create a new breed of leaders when it undergoes the process of reinventing itself even as he praised some of their current ones like Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“You will see a new Congress with a new vision. You will see leaders you can trust, ldears you believe can lead our States,” declared Mr Gandhi as he promised a new updated version of his party in the next six months.