Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi visits Singapore to court diaspora

Rahul Gandhi will deliver a public lecture and participate in a dialogue at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on March 8.
Rahul Gandhi will deliver a public lecture and participate in a dialogue at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on March 8.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - India's opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is in Singapore on Thursday (March 8) to meet the members of the Indian diaspora as his party gears up to challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in general elections next year (2019).

Mr Gandhi is also expected to call on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, a member of his entourage told The Straits Times.

The 47-year-old leader of the Congress Party will participate in a dialogue at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy later on Thursday, addressing issues related to India's politics, economy and foreign policy.

After Singapore, Mr Gandhi is headed to Malaysia where he is slated to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak as well as members of the Indian community, a member of his team said.

The scion of India's storied Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, Mr Gandhi is engaged in reviving the fortunes of his 133-year-old party which had led India's independence struggle. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP trounced his party in general election in 2014.

The trip comes a week ahead of a plenary session of his party which will ratify his election as party president three months ago and chalk out strategies to thwart Mr Modi's bid for a second term in office.

After suffering reverses in recent legislative elections in three north-eastern Indian states, Congress is next faced with a tough election fight to retain its hold in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, home to India's Silicon Valley Bengaluru.

 
 

Indian media reports say that Mr Gandhi's trip has been organised by the overseas cell of his party. The cell is headed by technocrat Sam Pitroda, who had organised a similar political outreach trip for Mr Gandhi in the US last year (2017).

Mr Pitroda, who had served under Mr Gandhi's father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, is credited with kicking off the modernisation of India's telecommunications industry.