Rahul\'s \'My Experiments with Love\' speech enthralls Cong plenary


27 February 2023

With each moving story, and his own learnings from it, Rahul Gandhi was clearly trying to create a new-age kind of politics

Raipur: In his 50-odd-minute extempore, spoken from heart, introspective outpouring instead of a prepared, scripted address, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi set Day 3 of the party plenary afire with his narrative of his experiments with love; highlights and experiences from his five month-plus, 4,000-km-long walkathon to unite India, Bharat Jodo, but whose political import and personal commitment were unmistakable - we will fight the BJP led by Narendra Modi with my styled Satyagraha 2.0.

"As we reached the Kashmir Valley, there were over 40,000 people when the intelligence only expected 2,000. The outer ring of cops disappeared. It was snowing. But everywhere I looked, I saw the Indian Tricolour. Prime Minister Modi boasts that he, and a bunch of his partymen, unfurled the Tiranga against the threats of separatists. He still doesn't understand the difference. We ignited love for India by connecting people… Congress inspired thousands of Kashmiri youth to unfurl the Tiranga and carry it," said Rahul Gandhi, to a thundering response of a full house of Congress leaders and workers from all parts of the country.

"As I started from Kanyakumari, I was arrogant. I was fit. I could run 12-odd km regularly. How hard could walking 25 km be, I thought? I was humbled. Bharat Mata whispered an instruction - don't be arrogant. I obeyed and I could find strength to walk. I used to speak a lot at the start of the yatra, but slowly, started listening more. And then words became redundant… people would come and hug me, or embrace me, or shake hands. As hands met hands, hearts would meet too, and words were not needed," he said, with deep intense emotion, and as unlike a political speech as one can get.

The prose flowed from the reborn leaders just like his beard was flowing; aged, matured, unkempt, natural and without any need for pretence or styling.

"Farmers, women and youth told me of their problems, many of which I cannot reveal. I felt their pain, I felt their urge to join the Bharat Jodo," he said, narrating specific stories of people - a mechanic in Punjab, an unemployed youth in Kashmir, a wife facing domestic violence in Kerala, et al.

With each moving story, and his own learnings from it, Rahul Gandhi was clearly trying to create a new-age kind of politics, a big risk - one, where he would not follow a stereotype or template of political accusations and manifesto highlights, and some rhetoric to set his narrative. He would not just win, but on his own terms.

"We are for satyagraha, the weapon and lesson from Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP will do anything for power, we will fight for truth, and with truth. And we will win the hearts of people by doing tapasya, undertaking lots of pain and effort, offering sweat and blood, and winning. We will win," he said, again, to a thundering approval and applause.

Setting the context of his ideology, Rahul Gandhi said: "A BJP Union minister (a clear reference to external affairs minister S. Jaishankar) says we cannot fight with China because our economy is weaker than theirs. This is the crux of Savarkar's worldview, the BJP and RSS worldview - get frightened by those stronger than them and meekly surrender before them. But harass and bully the weak? When Indians took on Britain for Independence, did we have an economy stronger than theirs?"

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who also spoke on Sunday, urged the party to ensure the resolutions passed at the plenary were implemented and not restricted to mere resolutions. "Rahul Gandhi ji has demonstrated for all of us, and the country, our ideology and drawn its strong line. Now walking on the path shown by him, let us all fight the forces that are not only harassing and targeting political rivals but the common people," she said. "Let us recall the sacrifices of all those who have given up their lives for the party in the last few years. Let us fight in their memory. Let us fight for Nyay."

She advocated a direct cash transfer scheme idea to be developed for farmers, and youth, as part of the party's campaign and messaging for 2024.

If Day 2 of the plenary was all statesmanlike and formal, the high-powered verbal jugalbandi of brother and sister enlivened the proceedings and enthused party workers. It was like Naatu-Naatu of speeches by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, and the workers from all states of the country were delighted.

"We have a clear message to take back home. We have our work cut out ahead," said a worker from Odisha. A contingent from Himachal Pradesh concurred, saying that the plenary also gave them a great opportunity to share ideas, experiences and hope.

"We have been out of power in Odisha but when we meet our brothers and sisters from Himachal or Rajasthan, where we defeated the BJP, or our hosts Chhattisgarh, we are filled with hope. We hear and share stories with our friends from Telangana, or Karnataka, UP or Bengal on how they fight. It has reinvigorated us," said Das, a delegate from Odisha Congress.

Rahul Gandhi ended his speech continuing to take on the Modi government, and the Prime Minister on the Adani issue, asking hard questions, promising: "They want to remove my questions. They want me to stop raising these issues. I will not."

Somewhere amidst his words and his earnestness, the Congress, concluding the plenary, must have somewhat believed that he has discovered the generational, trademark Gandhi chutzpah, the mojo, the victory recipe, and it will prove adequate in the coming times.

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