NEW YORK: Rahul Gandhi, speaking at the Princeton University on Tuesday, confessed that the Narendra Modi government's "Make in India" is one policy that he wished his Congress party had introduced, although with tweaks.
"I like the 'Make in India' concept but they are not targeting whom they should...My implementation and focus would be slightly different," the Congress Vice president said in response to questions from students at the prestigious university.
"PM Modi feels large businesses should be targeted. I feel medium and small companies should be targeted. That is where the jobs are going to come from," the 47-year-old told his audience.
Because of the failure to create jobs, he said, "anger is building up" against the government.
For 30,000 young men entering the job market every day in India, only 450 jobs are being created, he said.
"The anger is building up in India right now. We can sense it. So to me, the challenge is how to solve the problem in a democratic environment."
Offering an assessment that was also self-critical, he said: "Frankly, the Congress party was unable to do it. But Modi is also unable to do it. It is a deeper problem, so we have to first accept it as a problem and then we have to unite at solving it. Right now nobody is willing to accept it."
Mr Gandhi said the reason for the rise of PM Modi - and also of US President Donald Trump to an extent - was the "question of jobs". "A large part of our populations simply do not have jobs and cannot see a future and so they are feeling the pain. And they have supported these type of leaders. The problem is that the record on jobs of these leaders -- I do not know Trump so I won't go there -- but certainly our Prime Minister is not good enough."
He admitted that the UPA government led by his party, which lost power to the BJP in 2014, also could not deliver adequately on the job front.
"Those same people who got angry with us because we could not deliver on those 30,000 jobs are now going to get angry with Modi."
Mr Gandhi is interacting with policy makers, students and lawmakers in a two-week tour of the US. Last week, at an interactive session at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr Gandhi said he was "absolutely ready" to be the party's prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 national election.
He also commented that PM Modi was "probably a better communicator" than him.
"I am an opposition leader. But Mr Modi is also my Prime Minister. He has certain skills. He is a very good communicator...probably much better than me. He understands how to give a message to three or four different groups in a crowd. So, his messaging ability is very subtle and effective," he noted.