Rahul Gandhi's India – a beehive of buzzing thoughts

Gandhi’s problem is that he is starting from a very low base in his current bid to win public acceptability

Share
Related Topics

Rahul Gandhi, heir to the leadership of the Congress Party and maybe to the job of Indian prime minister, has dreams.

Today he tried to spell them out for the first time to a large conference of businessmen, who knew he was breaking away from his usual political meetings and were indulgent and even captivated as he occupied the stage for about 70 minutes.

He had two main messages in a slightly disjointed speech and then two long rambling answers as he walked around the stage at the Confederation of Indian Industry annual conference.

One was that India’s future lay in taking politics down to the pradhans (village headmen) to give “a billion people the power to solve the problems”. The other was that India was a “beehive” of voices and energy that excelled at managing complexities. “You are of the masters of complexities. Dealing with your business, your interactions with India and abroad gives you the power to conquer the world," he said.

The instant view from an audience that had enjoyed Gandhi’s adlibbing was that he had done well. But as people chatted later, criticisms began to emerge about the lack of substance. The most charitable view was that he had set out his vision of a new India with devolved political power, better motivated people, and better roads, ports and education, but he now needed to talk about how these things will be achieved.

Gandhi’s problem is that he is starting from a very low base in his current bid to win public acceptability. He has stayed largely invisible and silent for most of the nine years that he has been a member of parliament, and has created too much confusion about whether he wants to be prime minister or even a politician. His speech, naïve, sincere, and laced with a few odd stories, would have been fine if he was just starting out, say in his late 20s. But he is now 43, vice president of the Congress, and he should have added substance on policy, which he did not.

His two themes enabled him to dispel any idea that, as a dynastic heir, he could suddenly wipe away India’s problems - and also that Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Gujarat chief minister and Congress’s main adversary for the next general election, could not do so either.

“Give me all the power you want – give one individual all the power you want, give him everything, he cannot solve the problems of a billion people,” he said. Knowing that Modi has strong (and financial) backing from businessmen, Gandhi told his CII audience, “If you think there is a guy who will come on a horse charging through and set everything right, this is not going to happen". Focussing again, without mentioning him, on Modi, who is a divisive politician, he added that it took a long time to reverse seeds of disharmony. “Anger, hatred and prejudice do not contribute to growth”.

He also had a swipe at China, suggesting it was a simple straightforward country compared with India’s beehive. "China is referred to as the 'dragon' and India as an 'elephant'. But we are not an elephant, we are a 'beehive'," he said. The problem was that, unlike a "beehive which gives every member a voice", India was "clogged" and the voices of most people were not heard – which brought him back to his empowerment theme.

Mixing his metaphors to explain problems caused by the exclusion of marginalised groups such as the poor, he said: "Millions of Indians are brimming with energy. We are now sitting on an unprecedented tide of transformation. This tremendous movement of people and ideas are going to define this country in the 21st century…….A rising tide doesn’t raise people who don’t have a boat. We have to build the boat for them. We have to give them the basic infrastructure to rise with the tide.”

This was all fine, but India has no shortage of such dreams and even policies. The problem is implementation of what everyone knows needs to be done and, on that, Gandhi had nothing to say apart from devolution to a billion-plus people via village headmen.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?