Rahul Gandhi began his two-week US tour with an address to students at University of California's Berkeley today, attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP and also saying that he is "absolutely ready" to take charge of his party.
"I am absolutely ready to do that but we have an organisational election process that decides and the process is currently ongoing...That decision is something the Congress party should take," said Mr Gandhi. He had been asked if he was ready to take charge of executive roles in the Congress party. Mr Gandhi is tipped to take over soon as party president from his mother Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi, whose party slid to its lowest tally ever in Parliament in the last election, acknowledged that a "certain arrogance" had crept into the Congress and took responsibility for what he called a couple of years of lost opportunities from 2012.
But he asked not to be singled out for criticism as a dynast, saying, "Most of the country runs like this. That's how India works."
"Dynastic politics is a problem in all political parties. Akhilesh (Yadav), (MK) Stalin (son of M Karunanidhi in DMK), Abhishek Bachchan (son of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan) -- are all examples of dynastic legacy, also (Mukesh and Anil) Ambani (son of Dhirubhai Ambani), that's how the entire country is running," Mr Gandhi said, adding, "The real question is if that person is a capable, sensitive person."
Also read: Rahul Gandhi's New CWC Is A Bit Of A Downer
In a sharp attack, he accused the ruling BJP of festering "hatred, anger, violence and politics of polarisation," talking about the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru and about mob lynchings on beef suspicions. "It makes millions feel they have no future in their own country, isolates people and turns them to radicalization," the Congress leader said.
He also attacked the government over last year's notes ban, saying demonetisation had taken away two per cent from the growth of the Indian economy. The decline, Mr Gandhi alleged, has caused damage to agriculture and deep distress among farmers.
Mr Gandhi's criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was more subtle than direct. He admitted the Prime Minister was a better communicator than him and praised his Make In India and Swachh Bharat initiatives. But he differed with his approach to foreign policy, saying he would have made sure that not only did India have a solid relationship with the United States, but also that did not isolate others "such as Russia, Iran and our neighbouring countries."
He alleged that PM Modi controls an online machine of over a thousand people whose very purpose is to destroy Rahul Gandhi's credibility, calling him "stupid and incompetent".
In 1949, Rahul Gandhi's great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had spoken at the University. He was then Prime Minister of India.
Mr Gandhi arrived in San Fransisco yesterday and will, during his two-week US tour, meet Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and thought leaders to develop a better path forward for the Congress party. A highlight will be an event in New York City's Marriot Hotel with a capacity of 1,900 people, where he will address overseas Indians.
From San Francisco, Mr Gandhi will travel to Los Angeles. He is likely to visit Aspen Institute. The Congress Vice President will also travel to Washington DC and Princeton University before his final address in New York.