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No thanks, says Rahul

DECLARING THAT the Indian National Flag was his religion and that he had vowed to serve the people of this country after his father's assassination, Rahul Gandhi on Monday indicated that he was ready to accept any task his party assigns to him. But he said there was no fast track to success and leadership had to be built slowly, brick by brick.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 01:21 IST

DECLARING THAT the Indian National Flag was his religion and that he had vowed to serve the people of this country after his father's assassination, Rahul Gandhi on Monday indicated that he was ready to accept any task his party assigns to him. But he said there was no fast track to success and leadership had to be built slowly, brick by brick.

Rahul said he was willing to learn politics from the senior leaders before actually taking greater responsibility.

In his maiden speech at the AICC plenary, Rahul, who spoke on demand from the delegates, brought back memories of his father as he drew a distinction between "netas" (power brokers) and leaders who had evolved from the grass roots. He said the party did not need the netas as much as it needed the real leaders.

Rajiv Gandhi had expressed a similar view in one of his speeches. Though he spoke only for about 10 minutes (in Hindi and English), Rahul's address during the discussion on the political resolution charged up the delegates who had earlier heard a well thought-out speech by his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi. As expected, the session signalled the arrival of Rahul in big-time politics, putting to rest speculation about his reluctance to play a greater role.

He said while the political resolution talked about various issues, his focus would be on the Congress's plight in some northern states, which once used to be its strongholds.

Rahul said that while a number of party leaders attributed the Congress's decline to the rise of regional parties and to caste and communal politics, the fact was that "we have been unsuccessful because we stopped identifying with the people. We did not live up to their hopes". There was a need to strengthen the party at the grass roots and there was no dearth of grass root workers. "The party has netas who cannot deliver. Leadership cannot be created and it has to evolve after close interaction with the grass root worker who is the backbone of our party."

Rahul said the Congress had a huge advantage over other parties since it had senior and experienced leaders. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi both make us feel proud. But we can’t ignore the grass root worker who carries the burden."

He said the Congress's USP was that it was both the oldest as well as the youngest party, if one goes by the number of young leaders it has. "We must embrace the youth and unleash their energy. The seniors should tell us what has to be done. Let's move away from the corridors of power and become leaders by listening to the people and their grievances," he said.

First Published: Jan 24, 2006 01:21 IST