Rahul Gandhi's speech impresses India Inc, fails to enthuse politicos

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's maiden interaction with business leaders has impressed the corporate world while his political opponents saw it as a tacit admission that nothing has been done by an inept government.

Corporate leaders saw Rahul Gandhi's speech at the annual general meeting and national conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a sincere attempt to form a basis for future engagement with the industry.

"It was a very good speech. His ideas are brilliant. Industry has to see how it can work with the government. We should work in unison for greater progress," said Adi Godrej, outgoing president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

''He was very clear. He was invited here to speak about his views on the future of the country, his views on the long term, and not about economy. We've invited the prime minister, we've invited cabinet ministers, we've invited secretaries to the government and many other people, say state chief ministers for their views on the economy. But Rahul Gandhi was requested to address the plenary session on his general views, which he did in a superb manner. And I think it was very well accepted by the audience,'' said Godrej.

"This is his first engagement with the business community and he met the industry's expectations. It was a very good interaction. It sets the tone for future interaction. He spoke very broadly about various issues. I see this as a better collaboration between industry and government," said CII president-designate S Gopalakrishnan.

Veteran industrialist and a Congress critic, Rahul Bajaj said, "People say he doesn't have any experience and he has not spoken to people. I'm impressed on his frankness and his frankness of ideas. He talked about the work of MPs and MLAs. He rightly said that a team needs a good leader for doing things right."

''I didn't know what to expect so I was not disappointed. The huge hall was full and he captivated all of them. But that doesn't mean they all agreed. I don't think he limited himself to deficit or inflation. He isn't in the government, that isn't his job. He is concerned about the people. He talked of harmony, compassion and working together. His body language was informal and his speech was also extempore. Most of the people present there didn't know him, most of them hadn't heard him. This guy doesn't talk. I don't know whether he can remove poverty in 5-7 years that would be a valid question to ask,'' he added.

On Gandhi becoming prime minister, Bajaj said, "I support the one who will be good democratic leader rather than someone who is very dictatorial." Gandhi's comments, however, did not cut ice with some business leaders who said the Congress leader talked about the problems without coming out with any solution.

NCP leader and minister for heavy industries Praful Patel said, Well, I am happy that he spoke to CII and addressed Indian Industry and business. It's important in our country where the economy has to move and it's very important for our future well-being that Indian industry and Indian entrepreneurship thrives because ultimately what is going to solve the problems of India is strong robust economy and as leader of the largest political party of the country, it's important that his views are known to the people of the country. And I am not into the politics of what he meant vis-a-vis other political parties but as a substance and somebody who is having sound background of business myself, I don't think that he spoke well.''

"He spoke about the hurdles put by a clogged system that impede growth...We are sure this kind of paradigm shift in the thinking will result in a positive change for the betterment of the nation as a whole," Lalit Kumar Jain, chairman of housing body CREDAI, said.

"We hoped that he would speak on corruption and inflation, but he has disappointed the nation. Rahul spoke about giving powers to 'pradhan' but not giving power to 'pradhan mantri' (prime minister)." BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

"Rahul's speech reflected that he lives in his own world. He was meant to answer what has happened in the nine years (of UPA rule) but there was no mention of corruption or inflation. Instead of answering questions, he was asking questions. It is a tacit admission that nothing has been done. It was clear that there was Modiphobia, and Rahul Gandhi was in a confused state of mind," BJP's Prakash Javadekar said.