New Delhi: In an hour-long session that included a speech, a Q and A session which saw him walking around with a mic, many anecdotes about late-night train journeys and chats with villagers and young people in search of opportunity, Rahul Gandhi shared his vision of 21st century India. It is a "beehive," he said, to an audience of 1,000 industrialists. (Highlights of Rahul Gandhi's speech) | (Watch full speech)
Mr Gandhi, dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and without the stubble that has been a recent trademark, said the beehive is buzzing with the energy and aspirations of a billion people, brimming with complexity and innovations, but that unlike a beehive, where every voice is heard, India's system is "clogged." (India is a 'beehive', Rahul to India Inc)
In fact, in his address to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), he referred repeatedly to the need to overhaul the political system and decentralize power. (India Inc, others on Rahul Gandhi's address at CII meet)
India, he said, believes in "the man who comes in on a horse, the sun in the background, a billion people waiting, and he is going to fix everything. No, that's not going to happen."
Warming up to that theme, he warned, "Give one individual all the power you want, he cannot solve the problems of a billion people. Give a billion people the power to solve their problems, it will be done immediately." (Rate his speech here)
That remark was seen by some as a reference to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose industry-friendly policies have won massive investments from India's top corporate houses. Though neither Mr Modi nor Mr Gandhi have been named the prime ministerial candidates of their parties, the national election will be centred to a large extent on their face-off. (Would be harsh on Rahul to compare him with Modi, says smiling Yashwant)
Another apparent reference to Mr Modi lay in this statement, "Anger, hatred and prejudice do not contribute to growth. Do not under estimate the benefits of harmony when you play the politics of alienating communities you stop the flow of movement of people and ideas. "
Mr Modi was in office when communal riots in 2002 killed 1200 people in Gujarat, most of them Mulisms.
Of whether he will accept the country's top job if his party is re-elected, the 42-year-old Mr Gandhi said speculation in the press about whether he will get married and become Prime Minister are "irrelevant...it's all smoke." (Becoming PM, getting married are irrelevant Qs: Rahul Gandhi)
Mr Gandhi did not acknowledge that his party has been in power more than any other, and is therefore accountable at least in part for the many flaws he highlighted. (Watch: Rahul's Q&A session with India Inc)
He was candid that his own lofty status - he is second in the Congress only to his mother, Sonia, who is president- is based on "DNA." "It's an accident of fate ... I happen to come from a chain of people," he said.
He used the colloquial "Boss" repeatedly, appeared casual and relaxed for the most part, made a joke about his concerns about balding, and acknowledged the criticism that he does not share his views. "Frankly, I should do this more often," he said.