Siddhartha Verma, ‘patriot’ UK scholar & IRTS officer who battled Rahul Gandhi on ‘idea of India’
New Delhi: When 31-year-old Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officer Siddhartha Verma challenged Rahul Gandhi over his idea of India at a Cambridge University event Monday, his interjections were greeted with a small titter of disapproval. However, the video clip of Verma arguing that “Bharat” is an ancient “rashtra” rather than what Gandhi called a “union of states” has now gone viral, and has, by his own admission, earned him pats on the back from social media users. Speaking to ThePrint over the phone, Verma, a postgraduate Commonwealth Scholar in public policy at the University of Cambridge in England, said he questioned Gandhi to “understand” his views about India. “I was intrigued by Rahul Gandhi’s repeated statements claiming that India is a union of states, and not a nation. Gandhi, who was addressing an interactive session, titled ‘India at 75’, at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, had declared in his speech that “India is a union states”. Disputing this view, Verma told Gandhi that, as a political leader, his idea of India was “flawed”, “incorrect”, and “destructive” because it tried to “whitewash history of thousands of years”. In the video clip, Gandhi is heard saying, “I don’t think so” but the rest of his response is cut off. Verma, however, told ThePrint that Gandhi had, in effect, said both ideas of India could co-exist.
“Later, he [Gandhi] said that he did not have any problem with my idea of India, so I should not have any reservation with his idea of India,” Verma said. Also Read: BJP targets Rahul for meeting ‘anti-India’ UK MP Corbyn, Congress tweets old photo of Corbyn & PM The audience at Cambridge did not seem receptive to his ideas, Verma said, but added that he has now received overwhelming support across social media. “There were instant reactions from the interview and the audience around at the moment when I was asking my question. At a somewhat tense moment in the video, academic Shruti Kapila can be heard saying that the term “rashtra” means kingdom, to which Verma replied that it is the “Sanskrit word for nation”. Talking about Gandhi’s statement, Verma said: “I do not understand the motive but I assume that there had been an attempt to whitewash India’s ancient history. “I think there is a lack of awareness about ancient history. A Lok Sabha speech on 2 February had earned backlash for Rahul Gandhi when he targeted the Modi government over centalisation, saying, “India is described in the Indian Constitution as a union of states and not as a nation.
Hailing from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Verma describes himself as a Commonwealth scholar, “civil servant” and “patriot” in his Twitter bio. However, he said that his patriotism did not have anything to do with any political party. Verma studied political science and history in college before appearing for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams. During the first Covid lockdown, he was attached under the state Home Department of Uttar Pradesh as a special officer on duty to supervise the movement of migrant labourers from the state for three months. The young civil service officer is soon to complete his scholarship programme at Cambridge, after which he will re-join his service. Also Read: In Rahul Gandhi-Jaishankar clash on diplomats, why India’s national interest is the loser
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