New Delhi, Jan 17: Rahul Gandhi, in his first speech Friday as the campaign leader of the Congress for the 2014 general elections, had the party workers charged up as he combined aggression and combativeness with persuasion and a sense of humour.
Gandhi, 43, switched gears several times in his speech that was eagerly awaited by party workers and leaders at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting at Talkatora stadium here.
As the clamour rose in the morning with workers chanting his name, Gandhi made it clear that he will speak towards the end of the meeting.
The stadium was packed as Gandhi rose to speak.
Rahul Gandhi did not disappoint party workers as he took up issues close to their heart, issues the party could go to the people with.
Speaking in an impassioned tone and tenor rarely heard before, Gandhi also raised his voice in between to underscore a point.
He spoke passionately of the party’s thinking and ideology.
“This thinking is in our heart,” he said, raising his voice several notches.
Gandhi lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying he did not believe in the “structure of democracy to be handed over to one man”.
He also ridiculed Modi for his pitch to make the country “Congress-free”.
“They do not read books of history. Congress is a way of thinking… that of brotherhood. Our opponents should understand (this thinking) is not new but has been there for 3,000 years… You cannot obliterate this thinking. Those who tried to do it were finished themselves,” he said.
Gandhi evoked laughter when he compared the promises made by the opposition to selling combs to bald men.
“They do excellent marketing. They have shine, glamour, song, dance and everything. They are the kind who will sell a comb to a bald man,” he said, triggering loud applause from party workers packing the venue.
Keeping in mind the Aam Aadmi Party, Gandhi said: “Now new people have come up who are giving haircuts to bald people.”
He said that 15 Lok Sabha tickets will be decided directly from opinion of partymen at the grassroots level, including block presidents. If the experiment is successful, it will be upscaled.
Cheered on by the enthusiastic crowd, Gandhi asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seated a few feet away, to increase the annual cap on subsidised cooking gas cylinders from nine to 12 per household.
“There is another thing which the entire country, especially women are concerned, that is nine (gas) cylinders aren’t enough, we need 12 cylinders,” he said, as workers chanted his name.
Gandhi also called upon the people to support the party in passing six anti-corruption bills in parliament within the next three months. He said the opposition will do its best to stop the passage of these bills.
“We need to give more representation to women in politics. I want the Women Reservation Bill to be passed in parliament. I want half the Congress members to be women,” he said.
Gandhi said he wanted that there should be more women representatives and AICC members as also more women chief ministers.