Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi calls on US audience to stand up for ‘modern India’

NEW YORK (AP) — Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi stepped up his criticism of the country’s leadership in a speech Sunday, calling on Indians in the United States and at home to stand up for democracy and the Indian constitution.

Gandhi, a strong critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was ousted from Parliament, accused Modi and his Bharativa Janata Party (BJP) of dividing the country and failing to focus on important issues such as unemployment and education.

“Being nasty to people, being arrogant, being violent, these are not Indian values,” Gandhi, 52, told a crowd of about 700 at the Indian Overseas Congress USA event at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. He spoke just after a minute of silence acknowledging a massive train derailment in eastern India that killed 275 people and injured hundreds more.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the US Congress have invited Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress at the end of this month. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders heralded the speech as an “opportunity to share their vision of India’s future and discuss the global challenges facing our countries”.

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The grandson of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi is a member of the Indian National Congress party. He is seen as Modi’s main challenger in the upcoming 2024 elections.

“Modern India cannot exist without our constitution and our democracy,” he said on Sunday. He also urged a stronger India-US partnership to offset China’s influence.

The Congress Party defeated the BJP in recent state elections in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, victories that came after a series of defeats in state elections after Modi became India’s prime minister in 2014. Gandhi now does not hold an official position in his party. He stepped down as party chairman after his severe defeats to Modi’s Hindu nationalist party in the 2019 national election, though his supporters hope the latest results will have an impact on the country’s 2024 national election, which is likely to take place. celebrate before May.

Gandhi, who is not related to Mahatma Gandhi, also invoked the name of the slain Indian leader several times during his speech, praising his model of non-violence.

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