Rahul Gandhi, in his outreach in Chennai today as part of his campaign for next month's national election, addressed hundreds of students at a college and urged them to ask him "only difficult" questions. "Can you call me Rahul instead of sir," he said as a student rose to ask him a question.
The Congress president, who ditched his regulation white kurta and jacket for a grey T-shirt and jeans in this outing, said he was ready to be challenged and to be asked the most difficult questions. For starters, he told the students at Chennai's Stella Maris College, it left him upset to be on the stage while they were seated below. We should swap, he said.
"The question I have for you, Rahul (more cheering as the student used her first name "pass"), is that the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research faced huge funding problems. What can we do about it," asked Azra.
"We are convinced India is spending less on education, our target is 6 per cent. It is not only about spending money on education, but also independence on education. All our educational institutions should be able to challenge us... I want you all to make me uncomfortable," was Rahul Gandhi's reply.
To another question related to women's empowerment, he declared, "In 2019, we are going to pass the Women's Reservation Bill, they will receive 33 per cent reservation in jobs."
He added lightly: "I think generally women are smarter than men."
What did you learn from your mother Sonia Gandhi, one student asked.
"She taught me love and humility. That no matter who the person is, they have a unique way of looking at the world. It doesn't matter what your position is, you respect others. She taught me to love," said he said of the former Congress president and UPA chairperson.
The theme was inevitably dominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rafale, Nirav Modi and other allegations headlined by the opposition.
"Why doesn't the Prime Minister have the guts to stand in front of 3,000 people and be questioned by them? How many of you have got the opportunity to ask the PM questions," said Rahul Gandhi.