The morning after the tearful denouement at the Jaipur conclave, Congressmen must have woken up to the realisation that there is still a lot of suspense left in the plot.
The strong outpouring of emotions on the proscenium at the Birla auditorium on Sunday evening, for sure, reflected and re-affirmed their bond with the next generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family. But Rahul Gandhi’s real test starts now.
The new vice-president of the Congress lambasted the “system” — incidentally the same system that party president Sonia Gandhi evolved and presided over in the party for the past 15 years, that brought the Congress back to power in 2004 after a gap of eight years, and that got it a renewed mandate in 2009. His mother laughed affectionately as he spoke.
Rahul got applause from the Youth Congress and NSUI delegates when he thundered that a billion Indians want a say in government, politics and administration and it cannot be decided by “a handful of people behind closed doors”. But again, it was not clear who he was referring to. A natural surmise would be the ruling Congress’s core group, but that comprises Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister, among others.
If he was playing to the gallery in addressing the “alienated” youth, who have of late been taking their grievances to the streets, Rahul may have to do much more than outmatch Arvind Kejriwal’s rant against the system. He had nothing concrete to convey, for example, to the agitating youth in Telangana, or to the women still haunted by the memory of the recent gangrape in Delhi.
The AICC session was an opportunity for the Congress heir apparent to convey his views on the issues agitating the nation and to give a direction to his party on how to deal with them. But in choosing to invoke the sacrifices of his family, he joined the already proliferating groups of system-bashers.
His talk sounds especially hollow given that he is a beneficiary of the same system, and that he is yet to demonstrate his disenchantment with any actions.
Coming weeks and months would show whether Rahul has worked out some solutions for all the ills he talks about, or whether his emotional Jaipur speech was just empty rhetoric. The youth he was addressing too would be watching closely.
D K is a senior assistant editor based in Delhi