by Basudev Mahapatra
The Odisha visit of All India Congress Committee (AICC) President Rahul Gandhi, on January 25, 2019, must have fuelled the state chapter of Indian National Congress (INC) with energy to step into the forthcoming general elections. This apart, his response to questions in a town hall programme signified the emergence of a leader with a vision for the country in Rahul Gandhi.
The issues he raised here were the issues concerning the ordinary and the issues that people in general wanted politicians to speak on and discuss. Gandhi spoke about his vision about education, health, employment, agriculture and possible measures for the agrarian community to re-emerge as a contributor to Indian economy.
Education and health being his priorities, Gandhi said, the middle class aspirations could be met by investing more in education and healthcare sectors. Once in place, Gandhi’s idea was to build quality educational institutions like the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and healthcare facilities accessible to all, if elected to rule. Although he observed that private education in the country has become an enterprise instead of a service, his views remained balanced as he appreciated the role of private players in these sectors.
His views on other key issues like unemployment and the agrarian crises, and ideas to deal with these issues reflected the optimism people of India expect their leaders to have. Gandhi was quite hopeful about creation of more jobs in the era of automation and digitalisation. He was optimistic about dealing with the farm crises through transformation of the sector and by building a chain of agro industries, like food processing plants and cold chain, and marketing infrastructure.
On the basis of his understanding of issues encountering India and a vision shaped over several years, he observed that “things that worked between 1990 and 2010 have no more remained relevant now. We need to rethink agriculture and other issues and apply new ideas to address them.” Such a statement positioned Gandhi as a new age leader resembling his father, Rajiv Gandhi, who during his tenure as Prime Minister initiated telecom reforms and planted the seed for the information technology (IT) revolution in India.
All apart, his views on democratic governance where all institutions including the people of the country should be kept free despite difference of opinion on different issues concerning public life and governance certainly posed him as a leader with respect for democratic values, ethos and voices of people!
Constantly demeaned by many political leaders and their followers, maybe to sabotage the character known as Rahul Gandhi, the later seemed to be a matured politician with an attitude to learn from people and understand India better.
Even though many still underestimate him as a leader and there are differences on his leadership potential, his respect for different opinions not only qualifies Rahul Gandhi to the level of a seasoned leader but also makes him a leader of the mass with greater acceptability.
This is certainly a good thing for Indian National Congress and for Indian democracy!
Basudev Mahapatra is a Bhubaneswar based senior journalist. Views are personal.