A confusing vision

Let me begin by admitting that I wish I did not have to analyse Rahul Gandhi's first major address to the nation. It feels too much like kicking a helpless puppy. But, just as it would be impossible for a film critic to ignore Shah Rukh Khan's latest film, it is impossible for a political columnist to ignore the first speech made by a man who has been the designated heir of the Gandhi dynasty ever since he entered politics nearly a decade ago.

Rahul Gandhi said last week that his 'DNA' was his reason for being in politics. I understood this to mean that he may never have been in politics if it had not been his unfortunate lot to take care of the family business. Lately, since he was appointed vice-president of the Congress party, Rahul has seemed to change from being a very reluctant prince to a much less reluctant future prime minister. Even then, from the moment Rahul took centre stage at last week's CII meeting it seemed to me as if he were playacting at being a political leader, as if someone had written for him a speech that he did not fully understand.

He began by pronouncing that India was "not a country, but an energy". And, he went on to explain, the energy that constitutes India comes from her sacred rivers "that we worship". If only he had remembered this later when he was asked that question about water and he went into a long, meandering discourse about everything except water. He could have told us why governments headed for decades by his family allowed these sources of India's energy to be reduced to sewers. Was it because, like him, they too thought India was 'not a country' but an abstraction in which polluted rivers, filthy villages, chaotic cities and desperate poverty were really irrelevant? If this is Rahul's 'vision' for India, then it has already been realised.

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