Dubai: Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has appealed to overseas Indians to help with job creation, setting up manufacturing and contribute to agricultural growth back home.
Waving to an estimated audience of more than 24,000 people who rose to their feet to greet him at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday, he described non-resident Indians all over the world as the country’s biggest strength.
“The number one emotion I experienced in His Highness was humility. Great nations are built with that type of humility,” Mr Gandhi said.
“A leader is he who has vision and listens and appreciates not only the people of his own country, but the voice of others who live here.”
Praising the UAE for its tolerance, he said he was saddened by the “intolerance” in his own country.
“India can never be strong if it is divided. Different religions and communities in our country are being divided for political benefit,” Mr Gandhi said.
Reference attacks on minorities and liberals in India by right wing groups, he said that he wants “every single Indian to work to bring India together”.
“We are one country, not many communities and religions.”
He also promised NRIs that the Congress Party would work towards a long-standing demand for representation in India’s Upper House of Parliament and assured them that all their grievances and concerns would be reflected in a manifesto that is being prepared before the elections.
“I want to make sure your voice is embedded in our manifesto. We will have detailed conversations with NRIs and we will ask what you need. We understand you have a problem with representation and I’m here to tell you that we are going to do that for you,” Mr Gandhi said.
Shouting slogans like “long live Rahul Gandhi,” Congress Party supporters filed in to the cricket stadium to hear from a man they hope will be India’s next prime minister.
Men sold T-shirts bearing photographs of Mr Gandhi to people outside the stadium.
“Yes, I believe he can beat Modi. I’m sure he will be a good prime minister like his father and grandmother,” said Sanjana Ahmed cradling her four-month daughter Sarah.
“I want my child to witness this so I have brought her here.”
She was at the stadium a few hours before Mr Gandhi was scheduled to speak along with her brother’s family and two nieces, aged 5 and 3.
Mr Gandhi was elected unopposed as the Congress Party president in 2017 after the retirement of his mother, Sonia Gandhi.
Mr Gandhi belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that ruled India for the longest period since it won independence from British rule in 1947.
His late father, Rajiv Gandhi, and late grandmother, Indira Gandhi, were prime ministers and his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was India’s first PM.
Bit it did not disappoint Vineesh Chalada, a safety officer who travelled from Ajman with his wife and two-year-old daughter.
He said he supported Congress to ensure peace back home.
“[Mr Gandhi] should become PM because we wants Hindus and Muslims to have equal space. The Congress Party has always supported Muslims and all communities and that is what we want,” he said.
The Modi government has been criticised for not clamping down on right-wing attacks on liberals and minorities in India.
Mr Gandhi’s visit is being keenly watched before the general elections in India in April and May. Although Indians cannot vote from overseas and must return to their constituencies to vote, they are a vocal and influential community.
Mr Gandhi is in Dubai to speak on the “idea of India” and the values of tolerance espoused by non-violence leader Mahatma Gandhi during his 150th centenary year.
The Congress Party has said Mr Gandhi is in the UAE as part of a number of foreign visits planned to meet Indians overseas, to understand their concerns and raise them in parliament.
After the defeat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in three key state elections in December, the polls are being seen as the best chance for the Congress to work with regional parties in an alliance and take on the ruling BJP.
There are 3.3 million Indian expatriates in the UAE.
People came to hear him speak of his plans for the country.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL