Despite scaling up the pitch and modulation, that’s Rahul Gandhi’s much-awaited speech at AICC session in a nutshell
Shantanu Datta | January 17, 2014
Comparisons being natural in political arena, especially when discussing the Gandhi family, one could not but recall Rajiv Gandhi’s “naani yaad dila denge” comment as Rahul Gandhi began his address at the AICC session in New Delhi shortly after 4 on Friday afternoon. The fourth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family may not have used the same set of words but the unusually scaled up tone, tenor and pitch of his nearly-30-minute speech seemed to suggest he was getting set to do just that – take the fight to the opposition.
It was an unusually aggressive Rahul Gandhi – not just the raised pitch but in body language as well, not just the words but in what remained unsaid as well, using his hands, jabbing the air with his finger and charging up thousands of Congress workers assembled at Talkatora indoor stadium but intending to reach across to the millions outside.
Unlike mouthing ideals and philosophies at events such as the CII speech last year, where he came across as well-meaning but vague for most part, evoking smiles and motherly sympathy among the people, the AICC speech saw him gunning for the denouement with an end sight right from the word go. He touched upon the issues that need a retouch or three as elections draw closer – the outgoing government’s achievements, popular sops like advocating for 12 subsidised cylinders a year, reminding the hard work required to keep the economy going at a fair clip (“6 to 8 percent growth”), and reminding the opposition at the same time that his party is anything but a punching bag for others to practice mock jabbing.
Significantly, Gandhi also steered clear of attempting to scale a purported philosophical height – his earlier speeches were marked by fuzzy words and phrases like “poverty is a state of mind”, “Dalits need Jupiter’s escape velocity to succeed” UPA is “a beehive”, "if India is a computer, Congress is its default programme” and so forth. Though his emphasis that the Congress is not a party but a “soch” (or an idea) threatened to go down the same lane (recall his speech at the Jaipur chintan shivir, around this time last year, "It (Congress) is a funny party. It is the largest political organization in the world but perhaps does not have a single rule or regulation. We create new rules every two minutes and then dump them. Nobody knows the rules in the party”) but for the explanation to back it up.
With party president Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day making it clear that there would be no change from the Congress Working Committee’s decision not to appoint Rahul as PM candidate, the party vice-president seemed to have shed the chains that sort of bound him, asserting himself more as the leader of the pack, despite calling himself a “foot soldier” of the party. While Gandhi expectedly took on his chief opponent, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, by asserting that the Congress does not “light communal fires" and that "democracy is not rule by one person, he also seems to have taken Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party seriously, unlike the BJP, which is clearly in a dismissive mode.
In an attempt to take the wind out of AAP’s fight against corruption and stand for transparency, Gandhi spent a fair deal of time emphasising that his party had given “you, the people” the right to information (RTI), without anyone calling for it, and passed the Lokpal bill while others were busy talking about it.
While Gandhi is still to solve his problems – he gave a thumbs-up to Mani Shankar Aiyar publicly for his work in the panchayati raj ministry on a day the senior Congressman is facing major flak for his unnecessary and unparliamentary arrogance in deriding Modi’s modest past as a tea seller – and make his pitch match that of Modi, Friday’s certainly was a new release of an old film that did average business. Whether it will become a blockbuster like Sholay’s 3D version released last Friday only time will tell but as the old axiom goes, is it all too little, too late?
As India celebrates 70 years of freedom, Governance Now looks back and picks 70 words – or phrases, buzzwords, slogans, events – that best define this ancient nation and young democracy. Here, you will find much to be proud of, much tinged with pangs of nostalgia. Then there are entries that
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