Rahul seeks sweat, party has tears

FP
Rahul Gandhi took centre stage in the Congress on Sunday terming power as "poison" and issuing a call to transform the "system". The party's response was an outpouring of tears, with many chief ministers and senior leaders crying and hugging Rahul as he finished his speech at the AICC meeting here.

With everybody submerged in a pool of emotions, they even forgot to adopt the Jaipur Declaration.

In a speech evoking the Nehru-Gandhi family's bond with the party and its sacrifices, he disclosed that after his appointment as Congress vice-president Saturday evening, party president Sonia Gandhi had come to his room and cried. He recalled how two policemen who had taught him how to play badminton at his late grandmother Indira Gandhi's residence when he was a little boy and whom he considered his "friends" were the ones who killed her and "took away the balance" in his life.

By the time he ended his speech and returned to his seat to kiss his mother on the cheek and hug her, the entire auditorium was surcharged. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who hugged him and kissed his mother's hands, was seen borrowing Rahul's handkerchief to wipe her tears.

Her Rajasthan counterpart Ashok Gehlot was also seen wiping his eyes.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who was moderating the session, got up to praise Rahul Gandhi, calling him "prakash kunj" and "Eklavya" but broke down midway and withdrew after inviting Sonia to make her closing remarks. One Congressman hugged Rahul and started crying on his shoulders and had to be pulled back.

Priyanka Vadra and her husband Robert too were in Jaipur for Rahul's big day.

Rahul said that he had got up at 4 o'clock Sunday morning and, stepping out into the balcony, thought how he has a "big responsibility" in front of him.

Recollecting the hours after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rahul said, "It was the first time in my life that I saw my father (Rajiv Gandhi) crying. He was the bravest person I knew and yet I saw him crying. I was small but I could see my father was broken. The same evening, I saw my father addressing the nation on television. I knew, like me, he was broken inside and even like me he was terrified of what lay in front of him. But when he spoke that night, I felt the small glimmer of hope."

"Last night every single one of you congratulated me. But last night my mother came to my room and she cried. Why did she cry? She cried because she understands that the power so many people seek is actually a poison. She can see what it does to the people around and to the people they love. She could see it but she is not attached to it. The only antidote to this poison is for all of us to see it for what it really is and not become attached to it. We should not chase power. We should only use it to empower voices," said Rahul, drawing standing ovation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and all AICC delegates. Terming his appointment "a huge honour", Rahul added, "For me, the Congress party is now my life, the people of India are my life, and I will fight for the people of India and for this party."

Earlier, the new Congress vice-president made a hard-hitting speech lambasting the existing "system" which, he said, was designed to keep people with knowledge out and promote mediocrity. "The voices of the billion Indians today are that they want a greater say in government, in politics and in administration. This can't be decided by a handful of people behind closed doors who are not fully accountable to them. They are telling us that India's governmental system is stuck in the past. It has become a system that robs people of their voices, a system that disempowers instead of empowering. Why is it that the CMs need to appoint a teacher? Why is a vice-chancellor chosen when he is far removed from the education system? No matter what state you look at, no matter which political party you look at, why do a handful of people control the entire political space?"

He continued: "It does not matter how much wisdom you have, if you have no position, you mean nothing. This is the tragedy of India. Why is our youth angry? Why are they out on the streets? They are angry because they are alienated. They watch from the sidelines as the powerful drive around in their lal battis (red beacon cars). All our public systems — administration, justice, education, politics — are designed to keep people with knowledge out. They are all closed systems. They are designed to promote mediocrity and mediocrity dominates discussions while the voice of insight and thought are crushed."

Referring to the hypocrisy in the syatem, Rahul said, "People who are corrupt stand up and talk about eradicating corruption; people who disrespect women everyday of their life talk about women's rights. There is a young and impatient India demanding a say in the nation's future. Let me tell you they are not going to watch silently. Our priorities are clear. The answer is not in running this system better, we have to transform it completely."

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