India will not be a nation until the aam aadmi's “progress is based not on who he knows but on what he knows,” Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told cheering delegates at the 83rd plenary session at Burari here on Sunday. On a day when his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi declared war on corruption, Mr. Gandhi's devastating critique of the “system” took the audience by surprise. “Corruption is the symptom of closed and opaque economic and political structures.”
In a speech that sidestepped WikiLeaks about a conversation he had in July 2009 with U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer about extremist groups in India, Mr. Gandhi concentrated on the core issue of the day — how to build a nation — and system — which could unleash the full potential of what he described as India's greatest resource, its people.
Pointing out that for opportunity and connectivity to transform India, accountability and transparency were paramount, he described those who could be described as the aam aadmi: “The aam aadmi in India is that person who does not have a connection to the system. Whether he is poor or rich, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, educated or uneducated, if he is not connected to the system, he is an aam aadmi.” The examples Mr. Gandhi cited ranged from a tribal boy in Niyamgiri who is thrown off his land without justice, to the young professional in Bangalore who can't get her child into a good school, to the university topper in Shillong who cannot get a job because he doesn't know the right people, to the poor carpenter from Basti living in the slums of Mumbai who did not get an education for lack of opportunity.
To the party delegates, many coming from far flung corners of the country, largely ignored by the party leadership, Mr. Gandhi's words clearly struck a chord at a time when the party is reeling from the impact of a string of scams and electoral setbacks.
He pointed out that there was a clear “relationship between growth and the distribution of opportunity,” something that could best be described as “inclusive growth.” He also spoke of the need to make education accessible to the poorest of the poor. “Our schools and universities need to work as a network connected to jobs, research and development and the society at large. This opening up will form the education backbone of our country.”