In 2004 a shy young Congressman stepped out of 10, Janpath to face the jostling mediapersons after the party announced his candidature from Amethi. Five years later, a confident leader, and still young at 38 years of age, is leading from the front the Congress’ charge in the general election this year.
With every passing day, a clear prime minister-in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi's transformation into a seasoned politician was quite evident on Tuesday as he took questions — some uncomfortable — with poise and confidence. Not arrogance but an unmistakable air of authority and honesty rang in his voice at his first press conference in Delhi.
Isn’t it undemocratic to have a fifth generation Gandhi in politics, a foreign journalist asked. Candidly Rahul replied, “It is undemocratic but it's a reality. I could turn around and say that because my father, grandfather or great grandfather were so and so I will have nothing to do with that. However, my position gives me a certain advantage to force the process of change.”
That he isn’t the kind to sit around, was demonstrated when he added, “The fact that the Indian political system tends to be related to who you know or who your parents are… it exists in every party.... Just because I am the outcome of the system does not mean that I can't change the system. I want to change it.”
It was only last year when the Opposition members in the Lok Sabha had booed him and repeatedly interrupted his speech during the trust vote as he referred to two women — Kalawati and Sasikala — to drive home the point why India signed the civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States. But on Tuesday, he was calm and charming. Always on top of the situation.
As the party’s chief campaigner in the ongoing elections, Rahul has his task cut out for him. He has to woo a major chunk of about 17 crore young voters. He knows better than others how to do that: he must become one of them. “There are millions of youngsters. They will change things. I am one of them.”
Asked if he will take over as Congress president or join the government, Rahul replied in a dogged voice: “…unless I am forced, which the prime minister and my boss can do. But my preference is to work for the youth of the country and build an organisation that this country can be proud of. I have a lot of work to do in the Youth Congress. It will take two years to deliver that organisation.” The political pundits and the country is watching.