NEW DELHI: Congress vice president Rahul Rahul on Thursday denied he was in the race to be the prime minister and said his aim was to “give voice to a billion-plus Indians” and fight for inclusive growth.
Rubbishing unending speculation that he might be the UPA nominee for prime minister, Rahul said: “It’s an irrelevant question. It’s all smoke. The only relevant question is to give people their voice.” Rahul was speaking to a packed audience of industrialists and businessmen on Thursday morning at the Banquet Hall of Hotel Ashok at the National Conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
This was 42-year-old Rahul’s first interaction with industry leaders after becoming vice president of the Congress on Jan. 19.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the forum on Wednesday.
“Many people predict the probability of me becoming the prime minister, when will I get married etc etc. But these are all irrelevant issues and what we should focus is on finding voice for a billion people. We have to channelise our attention to more important issues like corruption, under-development and the inept political structures,” Rahul said.
Although he had a prepared text, Rahul often extrapolated and deviated from it and, after his formal address, chose to expound on his political philosophy on the “structural” and “systemic” problems of the nation as he answered a couple of questions while pacing up and down the dais.
He began stiffly, but gradually opened up and then became very informal.
At one stage, he called industrialist Ajay Shriram to his side, asked him to hold the mike and put his arm around him to illustrate an incident from his China visit.
He said miracles should not be expected from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh either. “If you expect the prime minister to solve all the problems, you are going to keep expecting,” he said amid titter from the audience.
Rahul questioned the top-heavy system of governance and said majority of the peoples’ leaders like pradhans of gram panchayats (village level leaders) are denied any say or have any inputs in the political process that goes into decision making.
“This is very frustrating,” he said, and called upon industry to partner with the government in pushing development and urged the business community to go for “smart interventions.”
To facilitate that, he assured them a “fair and rule-based government system. We have to push the envelope,” he said in overhauling outdated systems and rules and empower the poorest of the poor and the marginalised. Only then will India progress and be able to take on the world,” he said.
He took a dig at Hindutva ideology and showed his socialist side.
“I don’t like to keep people out. You can’t keep Biharis out of Mumbai or the Muslims of the system. This is not sustainable,” he said.
“Dalits, minorities, destitutes and women are all important links in the societal structure, and we have to reach out to them with compassion and empathy.” Noting the Indian idea of compassion was big enough to accommodate even outsiders, he said the corporates had a crucial role in developing India and urged them to “embrace its complexities.
The corporates greeted Rahul with a lot of applause.
“It was a path-breaking speech. He talked of involving the common man,” CII president Adi Godrej said.
“His thoughts on inclusive growth are in alignment with ours,” CII vice president Ajay Shriram said.
Indo-Asian News Service