Prodded by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi grabbing both the political and economic space in the tussle for power before the general elections 2014,Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi sought to wrest the initiative from the saffron strongman in his meet with India Inc today at the annual CII Annual General Meeting (AGM) gathering. The meet provides Gandhi the platform for his maiden interaction with India Inc.
Rahul Gandhi began his speech by saying he was honoured to address this august gathering and proceeded to explain why. Gandhi says Indian corporates have generated a huge mass of energy that has taken the country and the world by storm,in changing the lives of the people of the country and spreading Indian culture and power abroad.
India is bursting with this energy that has percolated down to the masses,he says and adds,”No one can stop this tide of Indian aspirations. Our job is to channel these aspirations properly by empowering the people. That is possible only if we provide the infrastructure that can create jobs as well as create the conditions for the entire country to prosper.”
Gandhi gives a first-hand account of his experiences on the Lokmaniya Tilak Terminus Express from Bhubaneshwar to Mumbai that he once boarded to find out first hand what the internal Indian migrant is thinking about,his dreams,his vision.
Gandhi says he moved from compartment to compartment speaking to the young men gathered there asking them what they were doing,where they were going,what their dreams and visions are and what is driving them to towns. The reply that he got was ‘jobs’. They were all moving from a jobless existence to one where they saw hope – in cities like Mumbai.
Since not many had relatives there and there was all-around uncertainty in their lives,Gandhi said he asked them the most crucial of questions: “What will you do when you reach Mumbai and find no jobs?” Gandhi says the answer that he got was surprising. They said,’No problems. if not Mumbai,we will move to Bangalore,or even further.’
Gandhi said this was the energy of this great country,this was the energy that must be harnessed to take the people from a position of poverty to one of prosperity. People are searching for opportunities and they will keep moving till they find them. Gandhi blasted the right wing parties that have been in the news for targetting Biharis,calling them to account for disrupting the great Indian dream.
“The system that we currently have is dysfunctional,” says Gandhi.
He explains: ‘When I went to an aviation academy,I asked them for the syllabus. What they were teaching students was dropping snail mail from aeroplanes in this day and age. The dichotomy,the gap between the infrastructure and people’s aspirations is massive. There is great urgency to ‘weed out the obsolete from our education system.”
Gandhi said that not the public sector,the private sector has taken the lead in taking the country forward and that must be given further boost.
Gandhi takes up some of his other experiences. Says he once met a woman,25 years old or thereabouts with 2 kids. Her husband is a labourer. Gandhi says he asked her what she wants to be? She says an IAS officer. And the man a businessman. Gandhi says he wanted to provoke her and said,”Look,that is not happening.” She replied that she works 8-10 hours every day and the husband puts in 10-12 hours for a pitiful existence. She points to her kids and says forcefully,’They will become IAS officers.”
Gandhi says he was shocked at the intensity of her belief that India is going to provide her that opportunity.
“That is the power that is in India Inc’s hands. Giving her that opportunity is what Indian corporates must strive for. Corporates must take decisions to create the system,the infrastructure,to achieve these dreams,” says Gandhi.
He added,”If we wait on Manmohan Singh to deliver on these,then we will keep waiting forever. One man cannot deliver on the aspirations of a billion people. Not Montek Singh Ahluwalia,not Sam Pitroda,not I can deliver on such massive scale. It is a massive enterprise that has to be also driven by the energy of Indian corporates.”
Gandhi says people ask him all the time for roads,power and much else. Says he tells them,”That is not my job. That is the job of corporates. They are the ones who must lead the charge to take India towards all-inclusive prosperity.”
Rahul Gandhi elaborates further on what India is all about,what makes it such a humming society in all aspects of human endeavour.
Gandhi says his advisors have told him not to use the India-China comparisons as they are mostly cliched. However,Gandhi says,”I don’t listen to them. Reason why I don’t listen to them is because of my experience. Think about it. China applies power by hand – they are a manufacturing behemoth. India on the other hand applies people’s power – the power of the mind. Forget the elephant and dragon analogy. India’s is the power of the beehive.”
“Indian media focuses too much on the noise. I read the morning papers and think to myself ‘why are they writing this stuff’. We need to talk about transparency,about human dignity about human achievements and yet we get tomes on Aishwarya Rai.”
Gandhi gets back to the China analogy and says,”Indians are always complaining about something or the other. The reason they are complaining is because they are dealing with extreme complexities. India is complex. China is simple. And that is why India can’t give simple answers when the West and other investors demand them. And you,the Indian corporates are the masters of this. You are of the masters of complexities. Dealing with your business,your interactions with India and abroad gives you the power to conquer the world. People dealing with simplicities will not win in the long run.”
Gandhi provides an example showing India’s supremacy says,”I once met a Chinese woman who was tearing into India’s maddening working culture. She was intent on proving India will never get anywhere near China in power and pelf. I asked her to show me her hand and pressed it. I told her that is the power of China. It applies the power of the hand. India on the other hand applies the power of the mind,of collaboration and that is what makes us strong and will that give us prosperity within the country and power abroad.”
As he ended of his interaction,the gathering rose in spontaneous applause.
The meet was attended by top business leaders and industrialists like Bharti Airtel head Sunil Bharti Mittal,Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji.