Reading news articles about the great Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s speech to CII one might think that one was reading the Onion or The Daily Mash. The quotes were so deep and meaningful that they could not have been made by a real person. But amazingly they were and the entire speech is well worth watching (video embedded at the end).
Mr. Gandhi’s opening was brilliant. One never knew that 100-200 years ago India was not a nation but energy. Highly cerebral, Rahul Gandhi must have been making a deep comment about Einsteinian mass-energy equivalence applied to the Indian landmass. But such genius can cause confusion especially in lesser minds when it goes on to equate energy to force. Middle school children with average intellect know that energy and force are very different and may even have committed lèse-majesté by reminding him of the two basic formulae: Force = Mass x Acceleration (Newton’s second law) and Energy = Force x Distance. Thankfully there were no children in the audience to impertinently shout that the emperor knows no science.
After such an opening nothing less was expected of such a master orator than his subliminal reminder that the entire basis of his appeal and power lie in the past. His great-grandfather may have built temples of modern India but according to Mr. Gandhi hydel-power projects were already in existence 1000-2000 years ago on the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It is outrageous that no history book mentions these startling facts. Moreover, the experts are clearly off by at least 2000 years about Saraswati drying out between 3000-2000 BC (For instance this baseless report from what can only be a third rate source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2073159.stm).
He continued the high level of the discourse by making a cracking analogy about the enormous amount of undeclared money being moved to havens abroad. It is worth reading in original: “We have built structures which are allowing this energy to rise, to explode…as this energy moves from India and goes abroad, you are the cutting edge, you are the people on the first line and you are the people who are our ambassadors and you are the people to tell the world what this energy is all about”
What is amazing is the fact that all of this wasn’t even part of the formal speech. The actual speech began with: “It was a dark night some years ago when my team and I got into Gorakhpur Lokmanya Tilak Express and travelled across India’s heartland”. Critics may carp that it is not quite in the same class as “Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny” but one has to make allowances for the audience.
As he started on his narrative, disaster struck. Somebody forgot the canned laughter when he made this hilarious joke: “…moving from the dust of Gorakhpur to the glitter of Mumbai. It took us 36 hours. It’s called an express.” He couldn’t hide his disappointment at the pin-drop silence but still continued bravely.
He then took about five minutes to carefully state the fact that Indians are optimistic. Lesser men take it as an obvious fact but that is purely their intellectual sloppiness. This talk of optimism made him suddenly return to the scientific theme he started out with. “Democracy and technology have triggered a non-reversible chain reaction in India.” Such striking analogies are as rare as reversible chain reactions. He stressed that “This reaction is now unstoppable”. And for the idiots in the audience he reiterated “Nobody can stop it”. It shows great magnanimity to lower one’s genius to the intellectual level of one’s audience.
Since great minds mix metaphors, he cleverly juxtaposed a tidal wave onto a chain reaction. “We are now sitting on an unstoppable tide of human aspiration, a tide so great that it is going to move forwards regardless of what we do.”
“But for this massive movement of people and ideas to be truly transformational we need to nurture it. We need to make it harmonious. We need to make it happen smoothly. We need to use the energy generated by this movement of people and ideas, the force that this movement is generating and we need to use it to empower everybody. Not one person, not almost everybody but everybody.” What a master rhetorician!
He inspired people to “provide the roads on which our dreams are paved”. The startling admission that “government cannot build this infrastructure alone. We are incapable of doing it alone. We need your help” was an inspirational break from Nehruvian tradition and a complete abdication of responsibility. He clearly is his own man. Critics may carp pointing at the economics of PPP (Public-Private Partnership) projects and the patchy experience of other nations but they clearly don’t grasp the intricacies of economics and finance as Mr. Gandhi does.
It was delightful to note that realisation finally dawned after 60 years of governing that “our problem is not joblessness, it is a lack of training and skills”. Since it was Mr. Gandhi and not some party apparatchik stating the obvious this could not have been the usual lip service to expansion of educational access and modernisation of the curriculum. Later in the speech he appreciated Kapil Sibal’s pioneering work in the area by stating “Let’s stop wondering how many colleges can we build and let’s start discussing what we can do so that the very idea of a college, the very idea of a university is transformed.”
After inspiring with his visions of optimistic and aspirational Indians, he became serious and thoughtful. He revealed the biggest danger the country faced and what kept him awake at night was “excluding people”. How true! Who wouldn’t like to be involved in those highly profitable land deals in Haryana and those concessionary loans from large building companies? He said “a rising tide doesn’t raise people who don’t have a boat”. What a great man. John F Kennedy must be weeping with envy at this witty turn of phrase. And what concern he showed for those outside his "ACeed" court who can’t visit the Riviera in their own boat.
Unfortunately the inspirational speech was taken off-track by quasi-corporate waffle about a “rights based paradigm”. It must have been the speechwriter’s sop to the corporate audience. It was clear that Mr. Gandhi didn’t much care for it since he skipped over the part only to lose his place on the written document. While fumbling to find his place he said he wanted “to go back to the women”. The faithless might have mistaken it to be a cry for help to Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi but it was the beginning of the next anecdote. Once he found his place and composure he again launched into his deep intellectualism. “The work they [Indian women] do right now as we sit here in this nice ACeed hall, they are building not only our boats but they are the waves”. Explaining the deep philosophical meaning of the statement is beyond the scope of this article.
The final minutes were a masterful performance in stream-of-consciousness speech. A couple of nuggets should suffice to showcase to the reader this intelligence beyond the ordinary:
“Our economic vision must be about more than money. It must be about compassion” – A bold and daring vision to go beyond the narrow definition of “economic”
“Inclusive growth is a win-win for everybody” – A tautological masterpiece