New Delhi, Dec 21: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s speech Saturday evoked kudos from many among his audience at the FICCI annual general meeting here with business leaders saying that he had cleared some misconceptions of the past and spoken with clarity and candour.
The auditorium was brimming with people with many among the audience sitting on aisles or standing as all seats were occupied.
Showing a new, proactive face of the party as he had promised after the recent assembly election reverses, Gandhi also appeared forthright in addressing issues and some of his comments evoked applause.
He said the party needs to accept the message of people in the wake of its poll debacle with humility without “excuse making”.
Neatly turned out and shorn of his occasional beard, Gandhi, 43, was businesslike but polite.
Injecting topical humour in his speech as he referred to election results, he said he now knows “how it feels when you have to go to your AGMs with bad news”.
Gandhi’s office was prompt in sending copy of his speech to the media. The Congress party office also sent it across swiftly, surprising journalists who, many times in the past, have struggled to get copy of his speeches.
T.V. Mohandas Pai, chairman Aarin capital, said that Gandhi had been articulate and his speech had content and clarity.
“It was a very, very good. It was a different Rahul Gandhi. (His) best speech I have heard,” Pai told IANS.
Pai, who had earlier been associated with Infosys, said Gandhi had addressed the issues concerning his party upfront and had talked of the need of introspection in the wake of debacle that Congress suffered in the four Hindi heartland states.
He said industry was “upset” and middle class and youth had their concerns with the performance of United Progressive Alliance government.
“The elections have shown anger of middle class. He (Gandhi) said that the government was listening to people,” Pai said.
Jyotsna Suri, CMD of Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said that Gandhi had addressed the perception among some people that he was anti-industry.
“It was one of his better speeches… It was an encouraging speech,” she said.
Onkar S. Kanwar, chairman and managing director of Apollo Tyres Ltd, said that Gandhi’s speech had a lot of good intentions but it may not be easy for the government to deliver as only about six months were left for the Lok Sabha elections.
“He has made a lot of promises. (Let’s) watch and see,” he said.
Naina Lal Kidwai, immediate past president of FICCI, said Gandhi “was very business-friendly.”
She said the real issue in the country was not of framing policies but of their implementation.
Rajan Bharti Mittal, vice chairman and managing director, Bharti Enterprises Ltd, said Gandhi had spoken of the need for industry to progress.
“His heart is in the right place,” he said.
An official of a foreign mission, who did not want to be named, said Gandhi was a possible future prime minister but his speech did not talk of solutions.
“Big business need exact steps. There were not exact steps (in his speech)… What will be the way,” he said.
“It was mostly general agenda, not solutions,” he added.
Another foreign diplomat however said that Gandhi’s speech was more clear than in the past.
“He is becoming a bigger politician. His speeches are getting more sophisticated,” he said.
On the other hand, Aneesh Saxena, CEO of Neetee Clothing Private Ltd, said Gandhi’s speech “was not very impressive”.
“There should have been depth. The whole economy is in bad shape. He should have clearly said how it can be improved,” he said.