Rahul’s speech leaves many in Congress ‘speechless’


New Delhi : Crowds were getting restive and rightly so, especially after being told that Rahul Gandhi would be the first to speak after lunch break. After all, the AICC session here Saturday was long touted as the one where the young MP would hold the centre stage.

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However, speaker after speaker continued to drone and finally the 3,000-strong audience packed in the Talkatora Indoor Stadium could no longer remain tolerant.

“Rahul Baba Ko Lao” and “Rahul Gandhi Zindabad” were spontaneous slogans that went around the stadium sporadically, almost like a Mexican wave, drowning out an Orissa delegate’s harangue.

Quickly, Congress general secretary Janaradhan Dwivedi made an impromptu appearance on the dais requesting the edgy audience to wait a little while longer for Rahul’s maiden speech to the AICC after he became the Congress general secretary in charge of youth and the students’ wing of the party.

And almost simultaneously, Rahul stealthily moved from the front row to the dais, greeted by lusty clapping.

Even his mother, party president Sonia Gandhi, looked surprised at the adulation for the young leader.

No wonder, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier in the day referred to the Amethi MP as the Congress party’s future.

But when he did come on to speak, he was not fire and brimstone as many had expected his first address before the Congress bigwigs to be.

Instead, it was a carefully tutored speech that referred to the youth as the biggest stakeholders in India’s future, the hackneyed reference to inclusive growth and how the country had to connect physically, intellectually and economically with the rest of the world.

Privately, for many, the speech seemed obtuse and to others lacklustre but none dared say that openly.

“Oh, you can’t quote me on this. After all, he is the scion of the Gandhi family and, perhaps, the future prime minister,” gushed a former MP.

“You have to understand that we have to give Rahul some more time in politics. Remember his father (slain former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi)? He took some time to settle down before he understood how politics worked. But Rahul baba is a fast learner,” quipped a Congress general secretary.

But the young parliamentarians were extravagant in their praise for Rahul. Just as Rahul was winding down his speech, they immediately rushed out knowing that the television crews would be in attendance.

For Congress workers, the Gandhi family mattered and this was in ample evidence.