|Rahul Gandhi during an election rally at Nongpoh on Wednesday and (above) supporters at the rally. Pictures by UB Photos
Mawkyrwat (South West Khasi Hills), Feb. 20: It was a tryst with destiny here today.
In 1988, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had landed in a chopper at the Saitsnad ground here, about 75km from Shillong, to campaign for the Congress.
Twenty-five years later, his son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi landed at the same ground with a similar mission.
And the son made a point to mention his late father in his 15-minute speech in English.
Still fresh from the anointment in Jaipur last month, Rahul expressed his eagerness to see more young faces in politics, saying that the political system can be altered through “sensitive” youngsters.
“If we really want to change politics, then we have to bring youngsters into the political system. Youngsters who are sensitive to the views of the common man, youngsters who feel the pain of the poor person,” Rahul said at the mammoth gathering here this afternoon after addressing a rally in Williamnagar, East Garo Hills.
“It is only when we open the doors of politics and bring in these youngsters that politics will really change. And I see many of those youngsters in this ground, and I want you to enter into the political system,” the Congress vice-president appealed.
The Congress has put up at least five candidates in the age group of 25 to 35 years, 19 between 36 and 45 years, 23 between 46 and 55 years, 10 between 56 and 65 years, and only three above 65 years for the Saturday Assembly polls.
In total, of the 345 candidates in fray, 60 are in the age group of 25 to 35 years, 125 between 36 and 45 years, 90 between 46 and 55 years and 70 above 56 years.
“Though I am in politics for many years, I am not happy with the way politics works. There are many things we can improve. Corruption is an issue in the whole country and we have to ensure that we remove corruption from the political system. And that is why it is so important that new young faces come into the political scene,” the Lok Sabha MP stated.
Rahul also asked the people to support the Congress, “young” chief minister Mukul M. Sangma and “ensure that we have good development in your state”.
“You have a young chief minister and he is doing good work. He is a hard working person and he thinks about the future of your state. And you have a government in Delhi, which is also a Congress government, which wants to support the growth of Meghalaya. I want both these governments to work together to bring massive developments to the state,” Rahul said.
He said the Congress does not believe in favouring any one community or group of people, but in helping everybody and moving forward with all of them.
“When we want to talk about development in Meghalaya, we want to say that every single tribe, every single group has to move forward together because we believe that it is everybody’s right to have access to development regardless from where they are from or who they are,” Rahul said.
For the forward march, local people should be empowered, he added.
“But development cannot happen at the expense of somebody. We have to make sure that many people are included in the development. This is the spirit of the Congress,” he said.
He also stressed the need to ensure that most of the central funds sent to states are used for the people, “Rajiv Gandhi used to say for every one rupee that is sent, 15 paisa reaches the last person. We need to change that so that our people can benefit.” He also admired the local traditional system of governance in the state. “As I was coming up to the stage, I met people and one of them was a traditional chief. And he explained to me the local system of governance in your villages, the traditional system of governance and how the structure functions. The West talks about democracy and over here, you have had traditional democracy for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Rahul, whose father had exempted Meghalaya from the panchayati raj system, said.
“What is democracy? Democracy is the voice of the people. It is the voice of every person regardless of who he is — whether he is rich or poor, and this is what you have taught to the rest of the country. If you want to take a decision, listen to what people have to say, and take a collective decision,” he said
He also promised that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he himself would work for the development of Meghalaya.
“We will support Meghalaya in Delhi, we will support your voice in Delhi and we will do everything we can to make this state progress faster,” Rahul said before he took off in the chopper to address a gathering at Nongpoh in Ri Bhoi district.