Sigh! Rahul Goes To CII
Rahul Gandhi speaks. Did he bore, impress or simply amuse? Here’s what media experts and political watchers thought.
With inputs from Aastha Manocha, Somi Das and Satyen Rao
It was Rahul baba’s day out today. And he was trooped out in his Thursday best to address the annual general meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry. His first public speech at a major business event – and what a killer speech it was.
Dimpled, clean shaven, togged out in a white kurta pajama. Thank god he at least has his good looks. Because oration is obviously not his key skill set. I have to say I had full faith that Rahul’s Yoda and Jabba The Hutt a.k.a.Raghuram Rajan and Sibal would have burnt the midnight oil writing out the bestest speech ever for the little prince. And tutored him to be able to answer every question. But Rahul showed us that he writes his own speeches. And somewhere deep within Rashtrapati Bhawan we heard a deep chuckle.
So what did we learn about Rahul Gandhi from his speech today.
- His role model is Noah.To paraphrase, he is building a boat for people in his constituency. We are assuming it will be called Rahul’s Ark. The boat will catch the tide we’ve been told. To quote, “A rising tide raises all boats, but you need a boat to rise with the tide, what does he who does not have a boat do”.
- Main aur Montek. That Rahul loves Montek was made obvious by the fact that he took Montek’s name, not once, not twice – but five times at last count.
- His other role model is Mother Teresa. After all, as Rahul said – “I am somebody who spends a lot of time with poor people”.
- He likes meeting the common man. And he knows just how to speak to them. “So I went to a jhuggi jhopri and there was a woman there. So I said, ‘what’s happening? What’s going on?’ She was 25 and had two kids. One of the kids wanted to be an IAS officer. I looked at the mother and told her, ‘It’s not happening’.” After which we are assuming the mother voted for the BJP.
- He also showed that he’s not just a hands-on politician, he’s also a handsy one. When elaborating the difference between China and India, Rahul related a story about when he went to China and the Chinese Prime Minister’s secretary walked up to him and told him that China was more powerful than India. He then held the hand of an unsuspecting man – who happened to be on the stage – to show China’s power. And then placed his arm around the shoulders of the man to show India’s way of displaying its power. As he said, “Boss, our environment is not simple, we cannot give you simple answers”.
- If he’s not mixing with the “poor”, he’s travelling to foreign locales to meet foreign friends who then feature in his analogies. From China to Spain to the land of milk and honey, his analogies were peppered with references to “when I was in Spain…France…Timbuktu…”. Guess who’s not getting the middle class vote.
- And finally, the Rahul lexicon – includes “Boss, Montek, poor, boat, system, pilot, beehive, US”.
But don’t go by what we said and thought. We spoke to some politico watchers and expert analysts and got their views on Rahul’s speech. Here’s what they had to say:
Bhupendra Chaubey, CNN IBN National Bureau Chief – High on intention, low on practicality. High on words, low on implementation.
Mihir Sharma, Business Standard – He’s not a good speechmaker. He’s improved a little but he still has only one thing to say – which is about giving voice to people and decentralisation.
Hartosh Bal, Political Editor Open –It’s a manager’s speech not that of a politician or a statesman. It deals in managerial specifics and doesn’t show a political vision. It leaves me distinctly unimpressed.
IndrajitHazra, Journalist – Watching a clean-shaven Rahul addressing the CII was seeing him tackle “non-Real India” for a change. He patted India Inc. on its back for having “changed” India before going on to tell them what they wanted to hear: more private sector participation is needed for infrastructure development. He essentially made the pitch that his party (as opposed to the UPA government) is not only obsessed about schemes like NREGA but is also interested in old-style capital and wealth creation. His comment about “one person” — I wonder who? — not being able to change the system but power has to be given to India’s “billion” to solve problems made me smile considering that such clarity could begin at home within the party he’s vice-president of. I had the distinct feeling that Rahul was trying to make this his version of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago speech. It was certainly as mystical.
Sanjay Jha, Founder Hamara Congress website (whose caller tune is a clear give-away of his feelings about Rahul’s speech –“Na meinsamjha, namein ye jaana, jobhitumne ye kahahai senorita”)– An honest speech,a visionary and a powerful speech. He was very statesmanlike and his ideas of inclusive growth was based on his personal travels. Liked the point on how the government and corporate sector needs to work together. His speech combined positive elements.
Manu Joseph, Editor Open – As an orator, Rahul Gandhi is as boring as Modi and evidently less talented, but I thought Rahul was impressive during the question-and-answer session. I can say without any ambiguity, even though it is naive for a journalist to say this, I believe that Rahul means every word he utters. It is a rare endearing quality in an Indian politician. I don’t know why he reminds me of Aamir Khan, but he does. The intense,decent bore, perhaps.
Sreenivasan Jain, Managing Editor NDTV – Fairly unimpressive.Not expected from someone embedded in the system. It’s a trend with Rahul. He projects himself with not being a part of the system and that’s not convincing at all.
All we can say is that this made for the most riveting hour of news television in a long while.