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Finally Rahul Gandhi opened up to an audience, not really great ..




Rahul Gandhi has been one politician who seems to always be operating in stealth mode. You would never know when he would be in the country or outside, he would not show up much in Parliament, and he would turn up when there would be some sort of controversy regarding the rural poor, taking the sides of the poor (and that would be the way that the Congress party would have to lean). The only speech that he had made till now was in Parliament during the Lokpal Bill controversy whereby he was given an opportunity to make a speech during zero hour, and he made a speech extolling constitutional status for the Lokpal (which sounds a bit funny given that his party has not been able to bring the bill into law, forget constitutional status, even 1.5 years after that event). This speech did not exactly hit any great standards, and considering that others in his own party are much more eloquent, one wondered as to whether he would ever be able to meet the standards set by Indira Gandhi and Nehru.
After this, he again went back to a semi-hidden state, making an appearance from time to time. However, the intentions of Rahul Gandhi remained a mystery, with him acting coy about taking on the leadership role. Some of the elections where he staked his reputation were lost badly, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (it is another matter that local people were found to take the blame and to prevent the taint from getting applied on him). In the past few months, there has been a lot of turmoil in the Congress over formally appointing him as the next head (although who else could be there for the role is a different matter). Finally, after a lot of drama, that crown was put on him, to start the next controversy; whether he will be the PM candidate from the Congress.
The BJP has more or less decided to have Modi as the candidate, but would not declare this as such to keep the fiction alive that the choice has not been made, but it would seem that the party and the RSS have made their peace with having Modi as the leader. He is the only one who is projected to sufficiently enthuse the electorate to get people either for him or against him (and the allies shudder about being associated with the against him). So, there is an ongoing contest between Modi and Rahul. Since Modi has been garnering more and more support as a developmental candidate, and has the apparent evidence to back it up, there needs to be something done by Rahul to showcase himself. And that is what I see the talk by Rahul to the CII conference, as a way to push his own model and prevent the Gujarat model from setting the pace.
But, somehow, when you listen to the speech, I could not catch anything that seemed to grip me. He gave a lot of examples of people who have imagination and ambition, he spoke about how we should not compare India and China (wacky concept of dragon vs. beehive), he spoke about trying to be more inclusive, and so on. But that passion would come through only when he gave some of the examples, else it seemed like a speech that was almost there, but not yet. If he were the Congress leader trying to stake a claim when the BJP had been in power for 9 years, I would have liked that speech, since then it would show some sort of vision. This speech seemed like the ultimate insider bemoaning that his Government has not been able to do anything and promising that things might or might not get better (since he did not promise, and in fact, seemed to go the other way by claiming that it was not for the leaders to do significant steps).
The main question at the end was – what do you do with this speech ? What do you make of the man ? As an Indian, it was painful for me to hear some of the words he talked about ambition and desire, and then see how the party has literally brought the economy down to a level where any small step the PM or Chidambaram speak about is hailed as reform; it is painful to read in the papers about how the country is so deficient in power, water, and sewage (where the majestic rivers are now open drains), where a car market that was deemed as a world leader is now seeing declines, and so on. What he said seemed so divorced from the reality that one can only conclude that he lives in a special world, with untold riches, with massive security that detaches him from the everyday reality, and so on. No word of security preparedness, inflation, corruption. Overall, if this is the hands that the party is going into, one really does not know how the Congress will remain the mighty organization that it does (of course, it is helped by the poor state of the BJP).




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