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Rahul calls for change in way of governing
Publication Date : 21-01-2013
Rahul Gandhi, in his first speech since he was elevated to Congress party vice-president last Saturday, spoke about his mother's tears and the pain that power has brought his family, while calling for a change in the way India is governed.
His father Rajiv and grandmother Indira were assassinated in 1991 and 1984 respectively. Indira Gandhi was prime minister when she was killed, while Rajiv Gandhi was a former prime minister seeking re-election.
"Everyone congratulated me and hugged me but my mother came to my room and she sat with me and cried. Why did she cry? Because she understands that the power so many people seek is actually a poison," he said of his mother Sonia, who is Congress president and considered the most powerful politician in India.
Gandhi, 42, spoke of his despair when his grandmother was shot dead nearly 30 years ago by two of her bodyguards, men who had taught him to play badminton. He also recalled how his father's speech to the nation had given him hope for the future.
Also in his speech, widely seen as a political coming-out because of its many personal details, he called for change in the way that India was governed, noting the frustration among the country's young people as evidenced by recent protests over women's safety. He also promised to groom leaders within his own party.
"We have to rethink and transform our system and the country," he said as Congress ended a three-day brainstorming session in the north-western city of Jaipur. The party must listen to the voice of a "young and impatient" India, he added, to ensure they do not feel alienated from the political system.
The party's hopes are high that the youthful Gandhi will win over India's huge bank of young voters and lead the Congress to a third consecutive victory in national elections that could take place as early as December this year. More than half of India's 1.2 billion people are under the age of 35.
Until now, Gandhi, dubbed the "reluctant prince", had shied away from taking up any party or government post despite entering politics eight years ago. He became the party's general secretary in charge of the youth wing only in 2007. He had declined to join the Cabinet in the past four years. Only in November did he agree to head the party's campaign committee for the 2014 elections.
Gandhi is stepping up to the plate at a time of political and economic uncertainty, with the government hit by a series of corruption scandals and an outpouring of middle-class anger over corruption and women's safety.
Questions also remain over his ability. He spearheaded the campaigns for two state elections last year but the party fared poorly in both. He was also nowhere to be seen when protests broke out over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman early last month and the lack of security for women.
"People will expect him to perform... the party is touting (his elevation) as a generational change. Expectations are heightened and results are expected," said Professor Sandeep Shastri of Jain University in Bangalore.
Mrs Gandhi in her speech yesterday said the issues of women's safety and electoral reforms would top the party's agenda.
Her son's rise also sets the stage for a possible face-off with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose prime ministerial aspirations are keener after a strong win in Gujarat last month.