New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi in his first speech as Congress vice president touched an emotional chord among many with references to his mother, party chief Sonia Gandhi, and his father and grandmother, and his frank critique of the party's functioning and of the ills of the "system", but many others wonder if there was any real substance in what he spoke.
The 1,200 strong gathering of Congress leaders and activists at the Birla Auditorium in Jaipur erupted in hurrahs and some leaders were seen wiping away tears after Rahul Gandhi's speech.
"I think his speech was not as a politician..., His references to how his mother cried etc. were meant to gain sympathy... But I did not find much substance in his speech," Gagan Sharma, a professional in his 30s, told IANS.
"The vision he has tried to show, that we have to bring change. Where was he when people were holding massive protests against corruption when Anna Hazare was there in New Delhi, and when there were tens of thousands protesting against the gang-rape?... He never once came out and addressed the people," Sharma noted.
In an emotional speech in Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi said: "The Congress party is my life. The people of India are now my life. And I will fight for the people of India and for this party."
"As a boy I loved to play badminton because it gave me balance in a complicated world. I was taught by two policemen who protected my grandmother and were my friends. They killed my grandmother and took way the balance...In the evening I saw my father address the nation. He was terrified of what lay ahead of him. But I saw a glimmer of hope. That hope has brought India where it is today."
Referring to his mother speaking to him after he was named vice president, Rahul Gandhi said: "Last night my mother came to my room and she sat and cried. She cried because she understands the power that so many people seek is actually a poison. She can see it, what it does to people around and to the people they love."
Usha Kaushal, a homemaker, was very impressed by Rahul's speech.
"I was really moved and touched when I heard his speech.. It was very poignant, especially what he said about power being poison... It is correct, a lot of young people who want to join politics realise it, they are scared because power corrupts. We want leaders who have their heart in the right place and want to do something for the country," she added.
Simi Singh, a college student, said she was not very impressed by the 42-year-old leader's speech.
"In the eight years since he joined politics, and despite belonging to a political family, he was speaking in a way that no one has done earlier.. Other leaders have always spoken progressive things, but he did not say anything progressive, or what initiatives the Congress party-led government is planning to take for welfare of the people. The aam public is not interested in such speeches."
However, she added: "I like the way he goes to people's homes and tries to understand their problems, but he should do something more concrete."
At the Delhi Metro and at roadside tea shops, Rahul Gandhi's speech was the topic of hot discussion among many.
"Why is Rahul Gandhi now talking about (misuse of) red lights? If he had wanted, he could have ensured that red (beacon) lights are not misused and then spoken about it," said a passenger on a Metro train that was going from Noida to Dwarka.
Another passenger quipped that Rahul Gandhi has all along been reluctant to take over charge of the party.
"Why is the Congress forcing a person who seems reluctant to become its leader? They should instead go for someone who is keen to become the leader," he added.
But many confessed that for the first time they heard Rahul Gandhi make such a passionate speech that made them listen to him.
"He may be reluctant in taking the leadership of the Congress party. But he should realise that if he wants he can bring positive changes in this country. He has the entire machinery backing him. He should take a call soon and not leave everyone guessing," said Ram Sharan Yadav, who works in a private company.