In his speech at the University of California in Berkeley, Rahul Gandhi did some plain speaking, painting a true picture of India with Narendra Modi at the helm. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) criticism that he belittled the prime minister on foreign soil does not hold good as he dwelt more on the issues and failings of the Centre. In fact, he complimented Modi for his oratory and communication skills.
The BJP cannot expect everyone to deify the PM as it does. With a big smile on his face, Gandhi drew attention to a “tremendous machine” being run by the BJP to depict him as a “reluctant” and “stupid” politician. Besides the “computer kids”, BJP-friendly TV anchors and reporters took constant potshots at him. They even tried to twist the Berkeley speech to hold that the Gandhi scion spoke against “equality and merit” and preferred “dynasty over democracy”. He was spot on when he admitted with refreshing candour that the fondness for dynasty is entrenched in the national psyche. But, for good measure, he added that one should be judged by his “capability” and “sensitivity”.
Gandhi’s passionate opposition to the “politics of polarisation” practised by the ruling dispensation was the most striking feature of his speech. He also did well to come out in favour of tolerance and non-violence, and say that demonetisation deprived the impoverished of their livelihoods and hurt the economy. A relaxed and confident Gandhi representing and articulating secularism and social welfare appeared a worthy challenger to Modi.
G David Milton, Maruthancode
Bolt from the blue
With reference to “Go steady, Mr Gadkari” (September 11), the frequent changes in policy for the auto industry has become a nightmare for manufacturers. The recent price hike of SUVs due to imposition of additional cess has brought a lot of discomfort for carmakers. Some are not only unhappy, but have even threatened to reconsider their business plans in India. The government, on the other hand, is unconcerned by its decision to increase tax revenue at any cost.
Now, the announcement of Nitin Gadkari to go green by deployment of electric cars by 2030 is another bolt from the blue. It is well known that the announcement is the result of the Paris climate agreement to reduce global warming. But some European countries including France have set a deadline of 2040 for switching to electric cars. India has set target of 2030 for 100 per cent electric cars without any preparedness. According to estimates, about 40 to 50 lakh cars — apart from other vehicles (in millions) — run on conventional fuel, which need to be replaced to meet this impractical goal.
There are some serious drawbacks to implementing this step. The time frame is inadequate, and we require a robust infrastructure for charging points. At present, there are only 800 charging points in India. Another factor is the high cost of lithium ion battery, apart from other accessories, which are not made in India. Lastly, the government must be pragmatic to convert its idea into a well thought out and feasible policy to prevent a futile exercise.
Partha Sarathi Mukhopadhyay, Nagpur
Control over ocean
With reference to “Build that carrier quick” (September 12), Halford John Mackinder said in 1904 that he who controls the heartland — Europe-Africa-Asia — controls the world. In this mass, the Indian Ocean is the largest water body. India today is virtually an island. Her land border, disputed for long stretches, is in a state of conflict. Have we shaped a strategy to suit an island nation? Realising ports were the “Internet” from the 16th to 20th centuries, our colonial masters ensured control of key strategic ports. On a map, draw a line linking London, Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon, Port Blair, Kolkata, Chennai, Colombo, Mumbai, Karachi, Aden, Port Suez, Malta, Gibraltar and back to London. Amazing, isn’t it? This was one of the key reasons why the Allies won WW-II. Shouldn’t we have at least four carrier fleets, with requisite escorts, including submarine screen, amphibious brigade — two at home and two on our east and west island bases? The Indian Ocean should be in our control to warrant the name. Instead a power that has no port on it is being allowed to befriend other nations to set up potential bases. The South China Sea struggle is just the beginning. We’ve been warned.
T R Ramaswami, Mumbai