Rahul uses emotional pitch, aligns with young and restless


January 21, 2013

JAIPUR: A day after his anointment as Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi struck an emotional chord with a packed auditorium, moving a collection of battle-hardened party leaders to tears and drawing a rapturous standing ovation that marked a perfect beginning to the tricky task of running the grand old party.

January 21, 2013

JAIPUR: A day after his anointment as Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi struck an emotional chord with a packed auditorium, moving a collection of battle-hardened party leaders to tears and drawing a rapturous standing ovation that marked a perfect beginning to the tricky task of running the grand old party.

A candid Rahul said that his mother Sonia Gandhi feared that he may end up being consumed by the power, getting addicted to the influence it brings: a stunning revelation, considering the widespread belief that Congress president had to work hard to persuade her reluctant son to take charge of the party.

Speaking of his meeting with mother Sonia following his elevation on Saturday, Rahul said, "Last night, my mother came to my room and she cried, why did she cry? She cried because she understands that the power so many people seek, it is actually a poison. She can see it, what it does to people around and to the people they love. Most importantly, she can see it because she is not attached to it."

Perhaps meant to emphasize that he did not have the option of keeping away from family legacy, the disclosure at once removed all doubts that his appointment as vice president was a moment of his arrival and that he understood it with all the possible implications.

Just before that, Rahul spoke of how devastated he had felt in 1984 when two policemen whom he played loved to play badminton with assassinated his grandmother, the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "As a little boy I loved to play badminton because it gave me balance in this complicated world. I was taught to play in my grandmother's house by two police men who protected my grandmother as my friends. Then one day killed my grandmother and took away the balance from my life. I felt like I had not felt before".

Rahul went on to describe all that he witnessed when he went with his father, Rajiv, to the hospital where Indira Gandhi had been taken after she was shot."It was the first time in my life that I saw my father crying. He was the bravest person I knew, but I saw he was crying. Though I was a kid , I could see my father was broken….. but when he spoke that night, I saw a small glimmer of hope. It was like a small ray of light in a dark sky. The next day I realized that many people had seen it. Today as I look back I can see it was the small ray of hope that changed India as we see it today", said the new Congress vice president in a tribute to his father's vision credited for the telecom revolution.

If the details sought to humanize the new Congress leader making him more of a flesh-and-blood figure and appear less remote than he has seemed so far, the forty-minute speech also showcase his willingness to step into a role ordained by legacy.

His address had a strong political component too, with Rahul embracing his new responsibility and promising to look after Congress as a family and work for country. "Congress party is my life. The people of India are my life and I will life for the people of India and this party. I will fight with everything that I have", said Rahul towards the end of his speech where he cast himself as the change agent arrayed against the status quo.

He played the familiar outsider role and promised to throw open the gates of what he called a close system which discounted knowledge: a theme reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi's "out-with-powerbrokers" call at the 1985 Mumbai session of the party. He aligned himself with the young and the alienated, saying that they are resentful because of their exclusion from decision-making. There was also a huge endorsement for the proposed direct benefit transfer scheme, saying that this would take care of his father's lament that only 15 paise of every rupee of development spend reaches the actual beneficiary. "Now 99% of money will go the people. It is a revolution and no other country has done it."

He also spoke about Right to Information, food security legislation, right to education, rural employment guarantee scheme and , the economic liberalization, for which he handsomely complimented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

And there was a variation of the by-now-familiar, "bombard "-the- headquarters"trope which plays well with the cadre. He asked for more power to the worker, raising an army of leaders, merit-based promotions and rapid change. In the same vein, he also spoke against the outsiders getting party tickets. His emphasis that he would be from now concerned about not just Congress's youth and student wings but the entire organization as a while was skillfully worded and may help, besides emphasizing his readiness to up his involvement, assure the Old Guard.

All this was heard receptively and even earned him applause. There were even guffaws when he mocked the fake champions of women's rights and probity. But it was the emotional charge which overwhelmed the audience.

The cadence and poise of the delivery first stunned the hall overflowing with eager party men from across the country. Then started the applause for the young leader promising a surprising sage-like detachment in the murky world of power politics and undertaking to open the "closed-society Congress"to merit and commoners. And, it all ended with choked throats and flowing tears, even mother Sonia muffling her sobs and a genuinely moved gathering in the audit chairs rising to its feet.

As the entire audience cheered him, they appeared to be also seeking to comfort the new leader of Congress. Those in the stands and the balcony stood up, so did the Congress honchos on the dias – led by chief minister Sheila Dikshit, defence minister AK Antony, mother Sonia Gandhi and even Prime minister Manmohan Singh, the octogenarian who tugged on the neighbour to pull himself up to align with the atmospherics.

Then followed the warm hugs, the extended hands wanting to touch and the mobbing, while the cynosure concluded his well-received speech with the promise of better future by playing an honest arbiter.

The roar of the prolonged applause and the deafening slogans had even skeptics within take a fresh look at the 42-year-old inheritor of the 127-year-old legacy.

Oratory and sentimentalism lifted Rahul just when there were visible concerns among well-wishers about how would the leader respond to the momentous situation. While the elevation was not exceptional – his anointment as natural as day and night in dynastic Congress — his eight years in politics had begun to look jaded with questions abound on his style and priorities.

The recent defeats under his watch, especially the decimation in UP, and his continuing picture of 'reluctant prince' had caused drooping of shoulders, stoking apprehensions if he could invoke the appeal of Gandhi family among the people.

All those doubts lay to rest on Sunday when Rahul spoke rather convincingly as "insider outsider", despite being the power centre for the two UPA terms in the party run by his family for decades, and capped it with an emotional delivery that left him with sympathy and support.

The verdict around was Rahul had won the hearts of the most wary of workers and stamped his authority as inheritor of Gandhi family legacy on the entire hall. And it was all telecast live.

Courtesy: TNN