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Rahul takes on Left at bastion to raise pitch at JNU

Rahul Gandhi went to JNU on Tuesday for a bout. He brought along the paraphernalia too: armed guards,Member of parliament Meenakshi Natarajan’s research and a truckload of tenacity.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | New Delhi |
October 1, 2009 1:12:36 am

Rahul Gandhi went to JNU on Tuesday for a bout. He brought along the paraphernalia too: armed guards,Member of parliament Meenakshi Natarajan’s research and a truckload of tenacity.

“I have an observation to make; and you may not like it,” he said after half-an-hour of grilling. “Nobody has asked me questions that go beyond the present; fundamental questions about the long-term future of the country,” he said.

The topic was “Youth,politics and development”,but those who earned their security passes from NSUI leaders never cared. In a deviation from the vibrant post-dinner mess meetings of JNU,the NSUI decided to have this one on the Kendriya Vidyalaya grounds,which made it more of a political meeting than an “interaction”.

An excited NSUI leader later leaked to the press that Rahul had had “chole-paratha,puris,fruit cream and rice”.

Gandhi spent the first ten minutes doing the crowd routine: autographs,mobile cameras,tugs,handshakes and the odd fan who earnestly discussed politics with him for over three minutes. “I get this sinking feeling that he is going to stick to a prepared speech,” a new entrant into the world of students’ politics said just before the speeches began.

More drama was in store before Gandhi could utter a word (he chose to speak in English): black flags were out,and activists of the Progressive Students’ Union registered their protest.

“The debate in this campus is limited,” he said,after informing JNU it had the most intelligent students in the country. He said NSUI wanted to promote open debate; to become the “voice of JNU”. “I am not the solution to all your problems; you are the solution to your problems,” he said to a section in the crowd that cheered. In four odd minutes,the speech was over and the floor was open to questions.

He made his stance clear by offering “that lady with the black flag” the chance to ask the first question. “You are surrounded by 1,200 intellectuals,” warned a student. As if in answer,Rahul said later,“Ask me questions; ask me difficult questions!”

Vibha Iyer,the lady with the black flag,however,complained throughout the meeting that Gandhi had evaded her question about tax exemptions to corporates. So much so that after repeatedly posing questions about the government’s education policies,a student complimented Rahul,“You are a good politician,because you say so many things without answering anything.”

When faced with a pertinent query,Rahul would bring out his little red Economics handbook. “You call for distribution of wealth,but where will the money come from? There has to be growth on one side so that money can be transferred to the other,” he said. In fact,he said that five times,repeating that the Left had failed to answer the question.

Towards the end of the interaction,when questions on the education policies became technical,Rahul showed he had done his homework. He delved deep into planning commission papers,duly selected and handed over by Meenakshi Natarajan. He even quoted a Chinese Communist Party leader who he said had told him recently that Indian Communists had lost their way.

“Where do you get your worldview from?” he asked JNU SFI secretary Roshan. He had talked of the failure of Soviet Union and the rise of a changing China by then.

Trading his regulation white kurta-pyjama for a cream half-sleeved shirt and black trousers,Rahul Gandhi had sleeves rolled up for a good fight.

The Initiation
Sudha Pai,Professor at Centre of Political Studies,JNU: Rahul Gandhi met Pai in 2005

“It was a two-hour one-on-one on Dalit politics in particular and UP politics in general. He came to my residence and was more interested in the 1980s; the discussion revolved around why Congress was on the wane. He showed interest in deviating from the identity politics of UP and charting out a development agenda.”

The Pointsman
Ashok Tanwar: Part of Rahul Gandhi’s core team,the former JNU unit NSUI president is the Congress leader’s pointsman on the campus,more so because he revived NSUI during his tenure. The current IYC presidents’ Dalit identity is an added edge. Though an MP representing Sirsa in Haryana,his incomplete doctoral programme means Tanwar retains his links with JNU.

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