Rahul pitches for energy security in emotive speech (Lead)

July 22nd, 2008 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) His speech was rudely cut short by the opposition but Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Tuesday still managed to make his pitch for energy security through the stories of two poverty-stricken women he had met in Vidarbha. Participating in the debate on the trust vote that will decide the fate of the Manmohan Singh government, an earnest, confident Gandhi started by saying that he was speaking not as the member of a political party but as an Indian. The disruptions started as soon as he began his speech, finally forcing a harried Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to adjourn the session till 2 p.m.

“I was thinking about what I want to say and I came to a simple conclusion. I decided that it is important at this point not to speak as a member of a political party but to speak as an Indian,” began Gandhi, clad in his usual white kurta-pyjama.

“Yesterday, I was thinking why we are meeting here. Why this house needs to meet. I came to the conclusion that we are meeting because there is a serious problem in India and the problem is our energy security,” he said.

When the opposition stood up to protest, an unfazed Gandhi said: “I request everybody to give me 10 minutes and to listen to me for 10 minutes.”

He didn’t get the 10 minutes and didn’t once mention the India-US civil nuclear deal in the few minutes that he had before the interruptions, but managed to tell the stories of Sasikala and Kalavati in drought hit Vidarbha and their need for power.

“Three days ago, I went to Vidarbha and met a young woman who had three sons. She is a landless labourer and earns Rs.60 a day; her husband works in the field and earns Rs.90. With their total earning, they ensure that their three children go to a private school. I spent an hour with them. They live in a slum.”

He went on to say: “The eldest son dreams of being a district collector, while the middle one dreams of becoming a engineer. And the youngest wants to do a private job.”

Amidst the melee, he said: “Poverty is directly connected to energy security.”

“When I asked Sasikala whether her children would be successful. She said, ‘absolutely, they will succeed’.”

“As I was walking out, I noticed no electricity in the house. I asked the children how do you study. They pointed to a little brass lamp and they said we study by that lamp.”

“Energy security reflects itself in everyday life. It reflects on the industry, reflects itself among all Indians,” said Gandhi, whose sister Priyanka and brother-in-law Robert Vadra were in the visitors’ gallery.

He said that energy affects “India’s growth. And energy allows us to grow at nine percent and that growth is responsible for allowing us to help poor and make programmes for poor like those”.

“The point is if we don’t secure our energy our growth will stop,” he insisted.

Gandhi, who spoke in English and frequently broke into Hindi, then began the story of another woman called Kalavati, who has nine children and whose farmer husband is one of the many in Vidarbha to commit suicide.

That story was cut short, but Gandhi did manage to say that he would go back to Vidarbha to see the problem.

When he was not allowed to speak, a harassed Chatterjee said: “What is happening, Can’t you people understand anything? The parliament has reached its lowest position; its nadir.”

As the Bahujan Samaj Party members stood up to protest, the speaker was forced to adjourn the session till after lunch.

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