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FUTURE VOICE

The chronicle of an anointment foretold had an element of the unpredictable within it. No script-writer or cynical Congress watcher quite expected Rahul Gandhi to make the speech that he did at the Jaipur meeting of the Congress. It was by no means the first time that a Congress leader had delivered an emotional oration. What was distinctive about Mr Gandhi’s speech was not its emotional charge, though this was significant, but the complete freshness of its approach and its language. The significance of the speech’s emotional content stems from the prevailing image of Mr Gandhi as someone distant and somewhat indifferent. This image cracked with the speech. Mr Gandhi came across as an introverted young man who had contained within himself, all these years, the anguish of witnessing family tragedies and the terrible responsibility of trying to live with these and his inescapable destiny. In his own life, and perhaps even in the future of the party to which he belongs, there will be, henceforth, a pre-Jaipur Rahul Gandhi and a post-Jaipur one.

Just beneath the emotion and the bow to the Congress elders, Mr Gandhi’s speech expressed a strong critique of the way he had seen the Congress function. He had no idea, he said in a devastating revelation, of how the party was run. It was run without rules, or those that were there were transgressed by the whims of individuals. The speech was a relentless salvo against the political culture of the Congress, which is dominated by backroom machination, envy and intrigue. He spoke against the shameless exhibition of power and position by Congress leaders and their utter lack of empathy and understanding. The party, he emphasized, was thus alienated from those that they are supposed to represent. His speech struck a chord of hope, but he was not starry-eyed about the future. He had learnt from his mother, he admitted, that power was a poison. Here was a young man who was aware that the chalice that had been handed to him could contain hemlock. This awareness is refreshing after the heavy dose of the smugness of power that Indians have become used to. His critique, too, would have disturbed the cosy comfort of Congress politicians. The Congress, like the proverbial Indian elephant, takes time to stir and move. So, the outcome of Mr Gandhi’s intentions will have to be watched: the staleness of the past should not be allowed to overwhelm the freshness conveyed by Mr Gandhi.