It was a different Rahul Gandhi who addressed the crowd at a DDA park in East Delhi’s Shastri Park.
The 38-year-old AICC general secretary engaged people who had gathered to see him and even managed to draw a few laughs, marking his transition from a reluctant politician to a consummate public leader.
He was addressing a rally in support of Northeast Delhi Congress candidate Jai Prakash Aggarwal and East Delhi candidate Sandeep Dikshit.
Jagdish Tytler, earlier named candidate from the seat, shared the dais with chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Haji Dilshad Ali, the BSP candidate from the segment who announced he was joining the Congress.
Gandhi launched into the BJP and its leaders. “Their slogan India Shining was in English and half the country that lives in villages did not understand it,” he said, to the delight of the crowd — mostly labourers and factory workers.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on being elected said everybody had to progress together.... He told me the Nuclear Deal was something good for the country and he was going to push for it, even if the government fell.”
Gandhi said the Parliament attack took place as the NDA freed terrorists. “Have you heard of Kandahar? Their minister Jaswant Singh took a big aircraft — only a few people went. He travelled first class…. When we asked Advaniji about it, he said he did not know. He was the home minister, he did not know what his ministers were up to?” he asked.
Referring to the attacks on North Indians in Maharashtra, he accused the BJP of being double-faced. “When we ask BJP leaders in Bihar about these... they say we don’t know. Our counterparts in Maharashtra are responsible,” he said.
Taking a dig at the BJP’s criticism of his stay at the home of a Dalit in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh with British foreign secretary David Miliband, Gandhi who did not name the UK politician, said he was criticised for “putting the country’s poverty on display”.
“A young minister from England said he wanted to know why India was progressing this fast. I told him... you will have to visit jhuggis (slums), villages. I took him to Amethi.... We stayed there that night. On our way back, he told me he understood that the real power of India were its people. An angrez (Englishman) understood I was not showing him poverty, I was showing him India’s strength. But (the) NDA did not understand,” he said.