Sigh! Rahul Goes To CII

Rahul Gandhi speaks. Did he bore, impress or simply amuse? Here’s what media experts and political watchers thought.

Rahul Gandhi CII

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.

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. His other role model is Mother Teresa. After all, as Rahul said – “I am somebody who spends a lot of time with poor people”.
  4. 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.
  5. 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”.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 OpenIt’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 OpenAs 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.


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Contribute Your Views
  • Deepali Sharma

    Now that Indian Heritage and Traditional ethos are in fashion, congress trades it for votes… big deal.. they have been doing this for ages.. they talk what sells and walk how they want.. Talks about sacred rivers, big roads, obsolete knowledge, personal experiences with young Indians, sounding like a businessman forging partnership with elites… Looks like Modi’s speech translated into english, with his own experiences (or supposed experiences) shabbily butted in here and there… now they wake up to Indian pangs.. pangs that have been coerced by their governance… No doubt that Rahul with this speech has been able to make it to the list of few congress speakers… But, point is… haven’t we seen them enough to trust them?? And and…. NDTV arranges a complete discussion for Rahul after this ‘ONE’ speech… and makes headlines as absurd as Brand Modi Vs Brand Rahul: India votes on speeches… How grossly deluding is that… Dude.. India doesn’t vote on speeches or sympathy anymore.. It has found a third better alternative.. Your govt. doesn’t deserve to talk till you work.. only part of which you seem to have understood is swindling.

    ‘Mother Teresa??’ – How superficial is that… Get your facts right sir.. Okay.. I can help you with that… Rahul baba… see this:

    And and… ‘When I went to University in 1991’…hain??? what for?? cleaning toilets??? bwahahahahahaha… naaaa… to supervise toilet cleaners… and that’s where i got my leadership skills sharpened from…. bwahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  • Qwerty

    Thank you Rajyashree for outing the Prince of Vacuity. The Economist had a pithy comment on Rahuls “speech”: “It is good to talk but even better when you know what to say”. He talked but knew not whereof he spoke. There endeth the lesson for the day.

  • Sanjay S

    And also add Subramanian Swamy’s Analysis: Only comment I can make is that calling him a Buddhu is a compliment to him

    • Kaushik

      Also add: Ms. Azmi says Buddhu spoke from his heart. Obviously he can’t from his brain. He has out-Buddhu-ed all Buddhus.

  • madhukar nikam

    A juvenile talk with nothing concrete to offer, out of 65 years of independence congress has ruled over 50 years…if things are wrong that has to be borne by congressmen……..why does he not get his point of view through govt action??

  • raghu

    Good One

  • A very boring, naseating, puerile , school boyish speech by someone who is being projected as India’s Prime ministerial material.
    Addressing the India Inc was a serious matter. But, the boy made a total mess of it.The audience was chuckling with a sense of dis-illusionment and nonchalance.
    Rahul Baba’s “strongest” weakness is his poor articulation.His address to India Inc acted like a soporific for audiences whose expectations raised by 24×7 TV channels and print media were dashed. A lacklustre speech, ghost-written by army of Congressmen, read by Rahul Gandhi merely exposed his intellectual bankruptcy. Why should indian Media give undeserved attention to the freshman ,who has no vision of country’s future. The media generated a tide of rising expectations about him which were soon dashed. This left the viewers totally disgusted.
    And, last, but, not the least,how could Narendra Modi be compared with Rahul. The latter has no hands-on experience in governance ? Comparison between an apple and a pumpkin,is not apt. It is like comparing the two incomparables.

    A K SAXENA ( A retired civil servant)

  • I do not subscribe to any political view, but I must confess, I sat down to watch Rahul Gandhi’s address to the CII with much expectation and anticipation (probably one of the first of a politician…usually my hate for the community overcomes my urge to watch)…and I did not leave disappointed….he delivered true to his image….somebody who is UNFIT to be anywhere near power. Although somewhere there was a doubt about his disability, but his address has cleared all such thoughts…..and especially when the “powers that be” say and I believe them, that he writes his notes himself and they come straight from his heart.

    I shudder to think what will happen to the 2nd largest nation on the planet if this chap is bought in a role of authority. How deplorable can it be for a nation of 1.2 billion people most of them (as against a popular political belief) knowledgable, cannot offer a deserving leader/statesman/administrator to lead this population and Rahul is the only fellow available to guide the future of India……..if anything this poses an important question and perhaps delivers a slap to the numerous netas/ politicians/ philosophers/ administrators/ senior public figures about their abilities……and capability as leaders of INDIA

    The address looked more like a session of an upstart motivational guru delivering in his first paid session, peppered with anecdotes than one of a political figure addressing nation’s business leaders.……. that they applauded the fellow was a mere mark of courteous manners or perhaps a fear….

    I find it a waste of time challenging and commenting on politician’s speeches but my urge and anger against impotency in the political class led me to write this longish comment….and please bear with me while I comment on some parts of Rahul’s address…..and it is not about WHO is better (as is popularly being discussed and debated) but WHAT is better.

    Comment in Speech – “When you play the politics of alienating communities, you stop the movement of people and ideas. When that happens we all suffer. Businesses suffer and the seeds of disharmony are sown and the dreams of our people are severely disrupted –

    The British used divide and rule for India – unfortunately post independence and for 60 out of 65 years one section of politicians (and we know which of the families….) have used the same principle to dissect, bisect, categorise, compartmentalise, neglect and alienate the people to enable their rule. And all the good work done by a wonderful VISIONARY of bringing together the divided princely states into BHARAT has been undone. Result is people/states are made to fight amongst each other while the same family….err politicians call themselves secular.

    Comment in Speech – “We have to provide inclusive growth. People are disconnected from the system……”
    This comes from a fellow, whose father acknowledged rather publicly (1988-89) that the system can infuse and deliver only 15% effectiveness as against a 100% generation. A whopping 85% transmission loss to people from a system that was run for 42 years out of 45 under the same ideology. Seeing such apathy and rot Iam sure Mr A.O. Hume and his fellow wise men would still be turning in their graves and heavenly abodes. Even for a moment lets ignore that era pre 1988-89. Almost 25 years have passed since that acknowledgement from his father and 20 out of those 25 years the same general ideology has been in operation. Are things any different, have they improved or gone worse perhaps 5%. and then when a DNA of the same ideology brings up such comments…..I can’t help but think of a hindi phrase “900 chuhe khake billi haj ko chalee”. Seriously about time ALL followers of this archaic ideology need to be sent to Kala Pani….forever…….and forgotten about.

    Comment in Speech – “The analogy of a Beehive……”
    Please bear with me while one examines a Bee community a little more deeply…. somebody ought to have done a thorough google search before writing his speech…I did just that and look what I found…

    Who is the head of the beehive – a Queen Bee…….

    How does the Queen bee run the hive – single head who divides all the workers into a caste system for better control, ensures all the workers do is slog and collect honey to feed the queen bee and her select group of female bees and a Drone Bee….
    and analogy could be thus …. political leaders who dream of a society in which all know their places, dedicated to ceaseless, uncomplaining toil; where the common weal is the shared ideal; where obedience is total and criticism of the leadership unknown. The structure of the hive society under its absolute ruler is widely used as a paradigm for autocratic monarchy. It so happens that the ruler is a female

    How does the beehive work – Tens of thousands of worker bees, assume responsibility for feeding, cleaning, nursing, and defending the group. Male drones live only to mate with the queen, who is the only fertile female in the colony. The queen need not lift a wing, as workers tend to her every need.

    How is a Queen Bee selected – Becoming the queen bee is a matter of luck. Queens become queens only because as eggs they had the good fortune of being laid in cells in the hive specifically designated for raising queens.

    Now in this light one compares a Bee Hive to INDIA as has been done in Rahul’s address, things become quite apparent on the state of our country. The rot, the neglect, the prosperity of a select few and the hard work and rigour for the rest of all….

    Probably, one can argue Rahul is still a “bacha”, but I say a publicly elected representative, who’s party is in power for close to 10 years and who dare speak and ask only 2 questions in his entire elected tenure as an MP, cannot enforce his newfound ideology within his organisation even with absolute and unconditional support how can he be trusted to run the larger organisation called INDIA…..discussions and questions of his vision and statesmanship are just words for debates.

    Phew..!…enough for a comment….but I speak from the heart…like this fellow of my age.


    • bulesha

      You are right Sir but he fit to the bill of Congress game plan. The shrewd congress think tank ( Sibal chiddu etc want a person like him or MMS to be PM so that the two power centers can thrive. One without any accountability & the other Mum. Hazaron sawalon se behtar hai meri khamoshi.

  • Geetali

    “Structural”! You forgot ”structural” – he used the word at least half a dozen times. Mostly as an adjective (wish he’d done it as an adverb, but I’m just a grammar Nazi!).
    If I had been in his shoes, I’d have grabbed this as an opportunity to articulate my vision -as a leader. The structural (oops, I used it too!) changes I would make in the system. The policy changes, changes in implementation; how I would address the concerns of different sections of the country. He spoke like the aam aadmi. Maybe his speech-writers thought that was a charming approach. But dude, WE are the aam aadmi, and we know what we feel, so don’t tell us that; instead, tell us what *you* are going to do about it!
    My grade: 2.3 on a scale of 10.

    • nn (B’lore)

      2.3 on a scale of 10…….such generosity. 0.3 is what he deserves, not for the talk, but for the spotless kurta-pyjama he sported.

      • bulesha

        The one News channel with indian capital in his name has devised a new method to guage speech.
        For RG – scale 0-10 He got 4.2 by readers.
        For Namo – Scale 0-5, He got 4.7 by readers
        200 Cr for Save tiger program – who is the benificiries -any clue.

  • Aniket

    “School-boyish”, as someone has commented below, is exactly what I felt watching the speech. Not to mention I fell asleep watching/listening it.

  • ayyan mani

    Odd. Rahul Gandhi is compared to an intense, decent, bore that is Aamir khan. But menu Joseph wrote a long article on aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots, saying Khan was ‘Not An Idiot.’ Is Joseph contradicting himself?