In his first address after being appointed vice president of Congress, Rahul Gandhi on Sunday spoke of the anger of the youth saying they feel alienated from the political class and demanded a complete transformation of the system to give them a role in the political space.
Addressing the AICC session in Jaipur, he made an emotional speech in which he said, "the Congress party is now my life and people of India are my life."
"I will fight for the people of India and for this party. I will fight with everything I have. I invite all of you to stand up and take on this fight," he said to a thunderous applause and a standing ovation from nearly thousand delegates at the AICC, that included his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manohan Singh, Union ministers and top party leaders.
After the speech, Rahul hugged his mother and later the Prime Minister, while other senior leaders greeted him with some of them giving him a warm embrace.
Echoing the concerns expressed by his mother to the conclave on Friday in which she underscored the need to respond to the "more aspirational and more impatient" youth and urban middle classes, Rahul posed a question: "Why are the youth angry."
"They are angry because they are alienated from the political class. They watch from the sidelines as the powerful drive in lal battis (cars with red beacon). We need to meet their urgent demands of jobs," he said.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is greeted by Rajasthan
CM Ashok Gehlot while Congress president Sonia Gandhi looks on during the AICC meeting at Birla Auditorium, in Jaipur. HT/Ajay Aggarwal
Rahul said only a handful of people control the political space and power is highly centralised. "We don't empower people at the bottom. People feel they are outside of the system. That happens because we don't respect knowledge. We respect only positions. If you don't have position, you mean nothing."
"Why people are angry. Because they are alienated from the system,. Their voices are trampled upon. All our systems – justice, education, political, administration – are designed to keep people with knowledge out. Mediocrity dominates discussions," he said in his 40-minute speech that was repeatedly cheered by party leaders.
Taking a dig at political leaders, Rahul said people who are corrupt stand up and talk of eradicating corruption and people who disrespect women in everyday life talk of women's empowerment.
"There is a young and impatient India which is demanding a greater say in the future, governance, decision making, administration and politics. The answer to this is completely transform the system. We have to rethink the systems and we have to transform them completely," he said.
Referring to the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, he recalled his father Rajiv Gandhi's famous saying that about only 15 paise out of a rupee reaching the hands of the people.
"99% of the money can now reach the people. But our opponents are saying Congress is bribing the people. Giving the people their due is now being called bribing the people," he said taking a dig at its critics.
Recalling the achievements of the UPA government, he said the IT and telecom revolution has given voice to millions of people.
"The voice of insight and thought are crushed by loudness of those who have neither the understanding nor compassion," Rahul said.
He stressed that there was a need to ensure that the voice of people at the grassroots echoes with greater intensity in the party and "the day it happens, nobody will be able to defeat Congress".
"No matter in whichever state or political party you are,...a handful of people are controlling it.... We do not believe in empowering people," he said.
While crediting Congress for brining green revolution and telecom revolution, he also pointed towards Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying he spearheaded another revolution and gave voice to thousands of entrepreneurs.
"And it's an honour that Manmohan Singh ji is sitting here because he spearheaded another revolution in 1991; he unleashed the voice of thousands in the field of entrepreneurship and change the country forever.
"The UPA Government has followed Gandhiji’s Model. It has created the platforms for those, who were denied their voice in the political system," Rahul said.
He noted that for the first time in our history people are being guaranteed their basic rights under social and economic heads.
"The food bill will ensure that no mother sees her child go hungry at night, the RTI allows every single Indian to personally take on the battle against corruption. MGNREGA is given millions of Indians pride in their work; Right to Education enables every child to aspire to greatness.
"All of these radical innovations were possible only because of the growth provided by the congress party and the UPA. But there are many challenges ahead-the voices of the billion Indians that they want to greater say in government, in politics and in administration.
"This can't be decided by hand full of people behind closed doors who are not fully accountable to them," he said.
"Why are the women suffering? Because their voice is being trampled upon by people who have arbitrary powers over their lives," Rahul said.