Another Gandhi comes of age?

July 22nd, 2008 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) He was once known for his silence rather than eloquence. But that seemed a very long time ago as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Tuesday emerged the star speaker in the debate on the trust vote in parliament with a speech that was intense and funny too. It was a litmus test for the oratorical skills of the first time MP from Amethi who was participating in the trust vote facing the nuclear badgered Manmohan Singh government. And he passed with flying colours.

In his first major speech in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, the 37-year-old scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty was earnest and confident - unfazed by the repeated disruptions by the opposition that even led to an adjournment and a break in his speech.

As he made an impassioned pitch for nuclear energy through the stories of two women he had met in drought-hit Vidarbha, Gandhi had clearly grown in confidence — and picked skills that make for an articulate member of parliament somewhere along the way.

“Yesterday when I was thinking about what I was going to say in the house, I came to a simple conclusion. I decided that it was important at this point not to speak as a member of a political party but to speak as an Indian,” is how Gandhi, rising from one of the back rows of the chamber, began as he defended the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

All eyes were riveted on the ‘yuvraj’ (prince), as he is sometimes called because of his role as scion of India’s pre-eminent political family.

His mother - Congress president Sonia Gandhi - sat in the front row while sister Priyanka watched from the visitors’ gallery along with husband Robert Vadra.

Three years ago on a somnolent afternoon Priyanka had turned up to hear her brother make his maiden speech in a post-lunch session of the Lok Sabha. Gandhi then spoke on education. He had spoken of his personal dreams and experiences even then.

Some later said Gandhi’s speech sounded like an impassioned plea of a high school, conscientious student.

“He has definitely evolved since then,” said Jaya, a third year student of Delhi University after listening to Gandhi Tuesday. “There was a touch of seriousness that went beyond the earnestness of a school pupil,” she added.

Beginning as a storyteller, Gandhi, in his rather idealistic speech, travelled to serious subjects - the energy crisis facing the country, the great strides made by IT and communication industries. It was his father Rajiv Gandhi who had set the pace for today’s burgeoning computer industry during his tenure as prime minister.

“We developed the IT and the telecom industries. Very few people then believed that computer will have anything to do with empowering the poor,” said Gandhi.

Trying to take the acrimonious trust debate to a different - personal - level Gandhi narrated the experiences he had encountered on his recent trip to Vidarbha in eastern Maharashtra.

He spoke about the poverty-ridden family of Kalavati - a woman he met in Vidarbha and how she diversified her resources to scratch out a living.

But the opposition members in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shouted him down. Resuming his speech after an adjournment, Gandhi indulged his sense of humour. “I was telling about Mrs Kala (Kalavati),” he said as his young colleagues next to him had a hearty laugh.

There was more to come. As he thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his initiative to shore up India’s energy resources, Gandhi also had a word of praise for BJP leader and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“It will be unfair of me not to acknowledge the contribution made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee (former BJP prime minister) to address the problem of energy shortage,” said Gandhi.

Then he looked at the opposition benches - smiled and said, “Taali to maar dijiye” (Do clap). For once during this debate the BJP benches were nonplussed.

The coming of age of another Gandhi?

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