“So how do you become an MLA or MP?”
Late at night, deep in the Uttar Pradesh heartland, 70 km north of Lucknow, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi turned teacher.
His students: around 300 young people, mostly from the backward and scheduled castes. His subject: netagiri (political leadership).
“How many of you want to get into politics?” Rahul asked. Nearly everyone in raised his hand.
“It is by serving the people that one gets into politics,” said a youngsters.
“Is it?” asked Rahul. “There are so many who work for the people in different ways. Do they all become netas (leaders)?”
His audience was nonplussed.
“Do you know who Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are?” Rahul went on. “Even if you do, will they give you tickets to contest?”
Rahul did not, however, desist from promoting the Congress and running down state chief minister Mayawati. “In the Youth Congress, if you have support and can get elected, you can be a leader,” he said. About Mayawati, he quipped: “The funds spent on installing statues in this state are higher than those earmarked for universities.”
“We want to change politics here. The politics of caste or temples is over. Now issues like jobs, education and health alone will matter,” he said.