It was almost 10 years after I first attended a Rahul Gandhi press conference that I landed at the Radisson Hotel in Ahmedabad yesterday.
A decade ago, he was at the end of his Discovery of India tour which saw him traveling to places like Kalahandi. We were part of the media contingent in Bhubaneswar in 2008 and were curious to find out that when he promised the Niyamgiri tribals that he’d fight for them as “a soldier in Delhi”, did it mean changes to the government’s Forest Rights Act or not? It was soon after he’d become a General Secretary within the Congress handling its youth wings and we were all very puzzled by him – unlike other politicians, he never chit-chatted, he always preferred speaking to the local media (but usually off-record and only to gauge the ground situation) and the most bewildering thing was that he really didn’t care what you reported about him. “Can you please tell me this information because I would like my report to be accurate?” you’d ask one of his aides about some banal information and they’d never get back to you because they knew RG didn’t like to patronise patrakars.
Just like then, this week too the media was intrigued about the change we seemed to be witnessing in Rahul Gandhi. Was this really the same person who used to stick to the same stunted utterances rally after rally? How was the man who earlier kept looking at his notes suddenly eliciting easy laughs now? “Okay, I’m not going to tell you that I’ll get you to land on the moon like they do.
I can’t say that, even though you may not like what I say,” he told an appreciative crowd in Patan on his Gujarat campaign. It isn’t exactly ROFL but then he brings it home with his emotive “badla nahi badlav layenge (We’ll push change, not revenge)” sort of lines.