Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s maiden address to the industry leaders at the annual general meeting of CII drives home message that he is very much empathetic with the poor and underprivileged. This comes naturally, because in his political career spanning over a decade, Rahul has spent a good amount of time closely watching poor families and understanding their problems. In his first interaction with the corporate world, Rahul walked a tight rope—making a bid to distance away from the government machinery and taking a potshot at the present political system. Though Rahul criticized the political system stating that it is being run by a few hundred people, it may puzzle common people, including business leaders, as he has a de facto control over the ruling dispensation. However, he does not hold any post officially in the government.

No one can diverge from the Rahul’s visionary insight that pitches for inclusive growth, but it seems intriguing why did he choose corporate conglomeration to ventilate his concerns over political bottlenecks? Had he expressed his views in a political congregation, he would have surely earned heaps of encomiums. Later his viewpoints were seconded by Congressmen and few industrialists who could not afford to displease the government.

Striking earnest note in the context of economic challenges confronting the country, Rahul has however stressed for inclusive growth, but corporate world cannot be solely responsible for bringing the poor and downtrodden to mainstream. He must be aware of the fact that the gloomy economic outlook under the stewardship of UPA-II has deepened the unemployment crisis.  Such a colossal problem cannot be resolved through the schemes like MNREGA, rather industrial support is needed that would create more jobs leading to development.

Corporate world cannot be blamed for economic slump in the country, rather buck stops with indecisive and inactive political leadership. However, Rahul’s speech was conspicuous by the absence of comment on the sagging political leadership. The corporate world has some responsibilities towards society and they are shouldering them well, but for that matter what about government and administration? Basically, it is the job of the government to look after the interests of the poor and deprived people. It is obvious that who is accountable for this gloomy picture that concrete results have not come out despite million-dollar welfare schemes, huge subsidies and reservation facilities running for decades in order to uplift the people of lower strata of society? There could have been radical changes, had these welfare schemes and subsidies not been used for political interests. Unfortunately, the sole motive behind launching these schemes in the name of improving the situation of the poor and underprivileged had been to reap maximum political benefits. Since the Congress remained in power at the Centre for the longest spell after the independence, so only this party is responsible for developing vote-bank culture. Such a tendency made way for large-scale malpractices so much so that Rajiv Gandhi had to comment that 90 percent of the funds issued for development work are swallowed by corruption. It is the duty of the government and not the industrial sector to ensure that the money is not misappropriated.

Addressing the business leaders, Rahul Gandhi correctly said that establishing industries is their job while the government has to provide enough succor to them, conducive environment for business and good governance, but the nub of the matter is nothing is happening. The government is neither able to provide a transparent system to these industries nor is able to create conducive environment for industrialization.  It would have been better had Rahul Gandhi proposed a far-reaching approach to the India Inc that would have guided them to improve their infrastructure for fulfilling the needs and aspirations of emerging India. Rahul could also have expressed his views in context of providing solution to those challenges which are being confronted by the business houses at international level. Now, even the government has created several problems before the industries and the biggest among those is the environmental challenge. If Rahul had put in his insights in this regard, the industry would have got significant message. Notably, Environment Ministry’s tough stand with regard to new projects is being seen as the result of the pressure built by those NGOs which are associated with Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council. It is surprising that Rahul Gandhi did not feel the need to highlight these issues; rather he gave his plea that problems of 120 billion people cannot be fixed by the one coming from dreamland.  It left people guessing whether this statement had any reference to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, but senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley was quick to chip in that development is possible with good governance and will power.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech might have been appreciated by industrialists but they may have hardly got any direction that industry leaders could conclude that Rahul would be able to handle the major issues if he becomes the Prime Minister. As such Rahul have so far appeared to avoid the main issues.  Since he is not holding any post in the government, it remains to be seen how Rahul would deal with any administrative problem. He is a powerful political leader without even being part of the government. Being the Congress Vice-President, he has a strong hold on the party affairs and the same party is leading the government at the Centre. It is amply clear that he can do a lot. And still, if he is confined to slamming the political system or stressing for the change in course of action for development instead of taking on challenges himself, he would fail to revive any hope in the country.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on April 07, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)