New Delhi: In an hour-long session in which he appeared relaxed for the most part, Rahul Gandhi shared with the country's top industrialists his vision of 21st century India: "A beehive." (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, and that India's complexity is a strength, not a drawback, that can power growth. (India is a 'beehive', Rahul to India Inc)
But the slant of his speech to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was the exigent 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."
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 appeared to be a reference to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, widely expected to lead the BJP's campaign in the 2014 national election. Mr Modi, in a recent spree of speeches, has flagged himself as the shaper of good governance and development for Gujarat, where industry-friendly policies have spawned a booming economy.
In another apparent reference to Mr Modi, the Congress leader said today, "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.
Though neither Mr Modi nor Mr Gandhi have been named the prime ministerial candidates of their parties, the national election will be centered to a large extent on their face-off. (Would be harsh on Rahul to compare him with Modi, says smiling Yashwant)
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 is the result of DNA. "It's an accident of fate ... I happen to come from a chain of people," he said. As vice-president, the only person senior to him in the Congress is his mother, Sonia, who is president.
There were some flubs- at one point, he stopped mid-story to search the papers from which he was reading, and said, "I have lost it," but recovered soon enough. In a lighter moment, he shared his acceptance that he is likely to bald soon.