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Indian MP Rahul pitches for system overhaul
Publication Date : 21-01-2013
Signalling a decisive power-shift in the Congress establishment and acknowledging his formal entry onto its centre stage, Indian MP Rahul Gandhi yesterday made a fervent pitch for overhauling the structures of power and decision-making in governance and politics, including his own party, seeking to champion the cause of the vast majority of “voiceless and powerless” people, whose voices must be heard, he said, by the ruling class holed up “behind closed doors” to ensure their empowerment.
A day after he was appointed as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) vice president, the 42-year-old Gandhi turned his address to the AICC meeting into his acceptance speech.
His impassioned 45-minute address--laced with ideas, prescriptions and personal anecdotes--made even the Congress top brass on the dais emotional with several top leaders and ministers seen breaking down.
Marked by frequent rounds of applause from the packed audience comprising over 1200 Congress leaders from across the country, Rahul’s speech also got standing ovations a couple of times. The three-day Congress conclave here, which came to an end yesterday, became a complete Rahul show ever since the party leadership made a surprise announcement of his appointment as the party’s official number two.
“India is in the Congress party’s DNA... Congress is my life, the people of India is my life and I will fight for them with everything I have,” Rahul said while making it clear to his party brass that things would now change within the organisation and government to connect them more closely with the teeming masses of ordinary people as well as party workers.
High on emotional content and rhetorical flourishes but shorn of concrete ideas and suggestions, Rahul’s speech, however, evidently moved the Congress leaders and activists at the conference.
Making a critique of the way governance is conducted and politics is practised by the Congress, Gandhi sought to put a common person and an ordinary party worker at the centre of his concerns and proposed enterprise as he questioned the centralised decision-making processes and strongly advocated for shifting the balance of power down to the grassroots plane at all levels.
Tracing the history of India’s freedom struggle spearheaded by the Congress and the evolution of the country’s polity, Gandhi said the Congress would have to stick to Mahatma Gandhi’s model “dedicated to the service of every Indian” regardless of his or her religious, caste or regional affiliations. “We have to listen to the voices of people...over one billion people want greater say in the affairs of politics and governance which determine their lives but which are decided by a handful of people behind closed doors... why are people, youths, women angry (on various issues) because they find their voices not being heard and find themselves being excluded and marginalised,” Rahul said, as he called for “transforming the system structurally and deeply”.
He said such a system entrenched in all public spheres is “designed to reward mediocrity” and thwart aspirations and initiatives.
Striking a personal note, Gandhi said following his appointment to his new post, his mother came to his room last night and cried. “She cried because she knows what power does to people and because power is poison. She is not attached to power. And its only antidote is not to get attached to it. We should not chase power but only use it to empower voices of people.”
He also conceded that he is “terrified” in his new role as a principal Congress leader and that he “does not know many things”.
Outlining his future role, the Congress leader asserted that he would view every leader and worker with the same eye, emphasising that the party members have to follow the principles of non-discrimination, discipline, and all-inclusive approach.
Continuing to position himself as a leader outside the zone of power, Rahul also attacked the prevalent hypocrisy of influential people “who despite being corrupt talk about eradicating corruption and those who despite being disrespectful to women issue platitudes about women’s empowerment.”
As he wrapped up his speech, he again got a standing ovation, with Congress leaders like Sheila Dikshit, Janardhan Dwivedi and Ashok Gehlot in tears. Rahul was hugged by his mother and the PM.