The ruling BJP can be defeated if the Opposition is "aligned properly" and the Congress party is working towards it and it is "coming along very nicely", Rahul Gandhi has told Indian Americans here, citing his party's emphatic victory in the recent assembly elections in Karnataka.
Responding to questions from the moderator and the audiences at an event at the Silicon Valley Campus of the University of California in Santa Cruz on Tuesday, Gandhi said he can clearly see "vulnerabilities" in the BJP.
“As a political entrepreneur, I can clearly see vulnerabilities in the BJP... The BJP can be defeated if the Opposition is aligned properly,” he said.
“If you look at the Karnataka elections, the general sense is that the Congress Party fought the BJP and defeated the BJP. But what is not well understood is the mechanics that we used," he said.
The Congress party used a completely different approach to fighting an election and building a narrative, Gandhi said, adding that elements of what happened in Karnataka came out of the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra'.
In the May 10 elections to the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the Congress won 135 seats, while incumbent BJP and the former prime minister H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) got 66 and 19, respectively.
Gandhi said in the Karnataka elections, the BJP spent 10 times more money than the Congress party.
He said the country needed an alternative vision to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in addition to having a united Opposition in the 2024 general elections.
“On the matter of opposition unity, we are working towards it and it is coming along very nicely. But I think in order to defeat the BJP, you need more than just opposition unity. Just opposition unity, in my opinion, is not going to be enough to do the job. I think you need an alternative vision to the BJP,” he said.
“Part of Bharat Jodo Yatra was the first step in proposing such a vision. It's the vision that all opposition parties are aligned with. No opposition party would disagree with the idea of the Bharat Jodo Yatra," he said.
Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) was a Gandhi-led mass movement aimed at uniting India. The yatra began on September 7 from Kanyakumari, passed through 12 states and culminated in Jammu and Kashmir on January 31.
During the course of the yatra, Gandhi, 52, addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings and 13 press conferences. He had over 275 planned walking interactions and more than 100 sitting interactions.
"So, I think bringing the opposition together is important, but also aligning the opposition and making the people of India understand that there is not just a group of opposition parties that have combined but a proposed way forward for the country. And we're working on those things,” Gandhi said.
The ex-Wayanad MP said it is the president of the Congress party who will decide the prime ministerial candidate.
“We believe that everybody in India, regardless of who they are, whichever part of the society they come from, they should have a voice that voice should be respected, to be listened to be appreciated. And I think that voice is an asset,” he said.
In his address, Gandhi also took a dig at the ruling BJP government, saying it is "threatening" the people and "misusing" the country's agencies.
"The BJP is threatening people and misusing government agencies. The Bharat Jodo Yatra started because all the instruments that we needed to connect with the people were controlled by the BJP-RSS," he said.
"We were also finding that in some way, it had become quite difficult to act politically. And that's why we decided to walk from the southernmost tip of India to Srinagar," he said.
Gandhi said the yatra carried the spirit of affection, respect and humility.
"If one studies history, it can be seen that all spiritual leaders — including Guru Nanak Dev ji, Guru Basavanna ji, Narayana Guru ji — united the nation in a similar way," he said.
Gandhi said India is not what is being shown in the media which likes to promote a political narrative that is far from reality, asserting that there is a "huge distortion".
"It was very clear to me in the Yatra that it's in the media's interest to project these things, it helps the BJP. So, don't think that everything you see in the media is the truth," he said.
"India is not what the media shows. The media likes to show a particular narrative. It likes to promote a political narrative that is actually not what is going on in India," he said.
The Congress leader arrived here on Tuesday on a three-city US tour during which he will interact with the Indian diaspora and meet American lawmakers.
He had a first-hand experience of the American immigration system as he had to wait for about two hours along with his other co-passengers on the Air India flight because of the common shortage of staff at the US airports.
People were seen taking selfies with him and asking him questions. He was seen interacting and mingling with other travellers at the San Francisco airport.
Last week, Indian Overseas Congress chairperson Sam Pitroda said Gandhi's visit is aimed at promoting shared values and a vision of “real democracy”.
"The purpose of his (Gandhi's) trip is to connect, interact and begin a new conversation with various individuals, institutions and media, including the Indian diaspora that is growing in numbers in the United States and abroad to promote the shared values and vision of the real democracy with a focus on freedom, inclusion, sustainability, justice, peace and opportunities world over,” Pitroda said in a statement.