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Can Rahul Gandhi's emotional pitch for change turn the tide for Congress?


Sagarika Ghose, Pallavi Ghosh, CNN-IBN
Jan 21, 2013 at 08:52am IST

New Delhi: At his first speech after being elevated as the Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi had party members in tears with an emotional appeal to transform the system. But it remains to be seen whether his speech will translate on the ground.

A normally reticent and hesitant Rahul spoke aggressively and emotionally on Sunday at the Congress Chintan Shivir in Jaipur. "Last night, everyone congratulated me. But my mother came to my room and she sat and cried. Because she understands that the power that so many see is poison. She can see it because she is not attached to it (power)," revealed Rahul at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session on Sunday.

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But much of what Rahul said is what he has said earlier. He spoke of changing the party, decentralising it, giving more importance to party workers. Even as the General Secretary incharge of Youth Congress, Rahul's attempts to change this have not always been successful.

And for Rahul, the challenge comes as much from within as outside. The Bharatiya Janata Party attacked Rahul for dynastic politics even as some in his own party compared him to US President Barack Obama.

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Rahul is often accused of being idealistic rather than practical. His 'akela chalo re' failed in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and political realities have forced him to compromise. The fear is that much of what Rahul promised may have to be compromised yet again.

Political analysts are also sceptical about whether Rahul will be able to bring the party back to power. Speaking to CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, former Editor-In-Chief, The Hindu, said, "Rahul Gandhi's programme lacks essential details. We don't know what he stands for. Of course, he wants change, but change for what end? Rahul has supported welfare measures but on and off sporadically, looks instrumental. He's an obsessive organisational man, believes in grassroots organisation. That's good."

"Here is a person whose position cannot be challenged, above the fray, who'll allow the rest of the minions to create systems. The question of his position of how he got there is not going to be asked," said senior journalist and columnist Swapan Dasgupta.

During the debate, IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai also added that Rahul faced a tough task of rehabilitating the Congress. "The problem is that Rahul Gandhi faces a tough task of rehabilitating the Congress which is facing a crisis of organisation, of electability. So he gave a good critique and pulled them out of denial, but it is to be seen whether he can walk the talk."

However, Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam expressed confidence that Rahul will be able to bring about a complete transformation. "Rahul was very much part of the whole discussion of important issues, took a lot of decisions. But it doesn't matter whether he's part of the discussion, as he is concerned about those issues, trying to address them. Just wait fort some time, Rahul is going to implement the ideas and will bring about a complete fundamental systematic transformation in the country," he said.

Full text: Rahul Gandhi's first speech as Congress Vice President

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