After being anointed as the chief campaign manager of the Congress (read PM candidate), Rahul Gandhi made a valiant attempt to electrify his rather depressed leaders and cadres at Delhi indoor Talkatora stadium in a charged speech that emphasised the gains of the party and laid out a vague road map for the party.
Rahul’s fire and brimstone speech came after Sonia Gandhi’s characteristic low decibel speech in which she said that the next election would be the “a battle between competing ideologies, conflicting views of the history and a different vision for the future... it will be a battle for India”.
The overhanging debate among Congress leaders at the session was whether the Congress should dare the BJP by announcing Rahul as the PM candidate, which Sonia Gandhi refused to do.
But Rahul proved that he is already a PM by demanding government subsidy for 12 cylinders instead of the 9 now, a demand which was met with abject approval by petroleum minister Veerappa Moily who promptly announced the hike in subsidy.
But Rahul’s speech tried to make up for the lack of grandeur of a PM candidate and attacked BJP and Modi. He said that a change is taking place in the country and the party needs to meet the aspiration of the common man who wants a new deal. There was nothing in his speech to show that he feared the rise of the Aam Admi Party which has almost stolen the “common man” party plank away from the Congress not just in name but by capturing Delhi after demolishing the Congress.
Despite Rahul’s brave attempt which carried on from his first big speech at the Jaipur AICC session (see box) a general sense of dismay was visible among the cadres and state-level leaders assembled at the Talkatora stadium. The normal view is that the party will find it difficult to get more than 100 seats. Others said the Congress always went into the last two elections with a loser tag but won.
The Congress also positioned itself as the custodian of secular values and Rahul said the BJP believed in lighting communal fires. The party had skirted the issue of communalism at the Jaipur session last year by focussing instead on governance to attract in middle class and youth but at Talkotora has taken on the anti-communal party plan to target the BJP om candidate Narendra Modi.
In the middle of all this, prime minister Manmohan Singh already reduced in might and stature tried to make his presence felt by announcing the great strides in the last 10 years of the UPA rule and complained that the government did not get any credit for the achievements.
Rahul’s evolution in one year
1 In Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi targeting the VVIP culture said, “They (youth) are angry because they are alienated and excluded from the political class. They watch from the sideline as the powerful drive around in their lal battis.
In Delhi, no mention of eliminating the VVIP culture, even though the party got drubbing in Delhi, largely due to arrogance of its leaders and AAP’s abhorrence of VVIP culture.
2 In Jaipur, besides youth, he targeted the middle class, by raising issues of governance. “Why are people angry. Because they are alienated from the system. Their voices are trampled upon. All our systems – justice, education, political, administration – are designed to keep people with knowledge out. Mediocrity dominates discussions,” he said. He offered a searing critique of the nation’s poor governance setup. He also took aim at the leaders India taps, arguing that the best informed people aren’t always those who end up in powerful positions.
In Delhi, focus shifted to those between below poverty line and middle class. They are about 70 crore in number. He announced plans for this section of the society.
3 In Jaipur, he promised democratisation of party and ending role of people with connections.
In Delhi, no mention of this, except to experiment in 15 chosen Lok Sabha seats, where tickets will be distributed after conducting a referendum locally amongst party cadres and workers.
4 In Jaipur, he sent a message that those who have lost elections with gap of over 15,000 votes will not be given ticket. He said Congress would not give ticket to criminals.
In Delhi, no mention of these promises. In fact, they were violated, when tickets were distributed in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.