Rahul-Sonia-gandhi-670-Reuters
Rahul Gandhi, a lawmaker, speaks to Sonia Gandhi (R), who is his mother and India's ruling Congress party chief, during the Indian National Congress meeting in Jaipur, capital of India's desert state of Rajasthan January 20, 2013. — Photo by Reuters

NEW DELHI: In an emotional speech after taking over the mantle as Congress party’s vice-president in Jaipur on Sunday, Rahul Gandhi told his cheering supporters that power was poison, but he was accepting it to empower the poor.

“Last night each one of you congratulated me. My mother came to my room and she sat with me and she cried... because she understands that power so many people seek is actually a poison,” Mr Gandhi said.

He was speaking at the All India Congress Committee session where he was unofficially anointed as a prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections.

Striking a personal note, the 42-year-old leader in his maiden address as party vice-president, recalled the moments when his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi walked into his room at night.

He recalled the time his grandmother, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in 1984 by security guards with whom he used to play badminton as ‘friends’ and how his father Rajiv Gandhi, who was himself “broken inside”, showed a “glimmer of hope” to the people.

The young leader received a standing ovation from the audience, which included his mother and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he said: “We should not chase power, only use it to empower others.”

He said his mother could see that power was poison “because she is not attached to it. The only antidote to this poison for all of us is to see what it really is and not become attached to it. We should not chase power for the attributes of power. We should only use it to empower the voices.”

Mr Gandhi recalled that as a little boy, “he loved to play badminton. I loved it because it gave me balance in this complicated world. I was taught how to play in my grandmother’s house by two policemen who protected my grandmother as my friends.

“Then one day they killed my grandmother and took away the balance from my life. I felt like I had not felt before.”

He recalled how he knew his father was “broken inside” and “terrified of what lay in front of him”.

“My father was in Bengal and he came back.... It was the first time in my life that I saw my father crying. He was the bravest person I knew and yet I saw him cry. I could see... I was small, but I could see my father was broken. They had taken away his mother and he was broken. In

those days our country was not what it is today.”

Until 1984, before his father took power, India was considered to be a worthless country. “In the eyes of the world we had nothing, we were worthless.... Nobody thought about us. That same evening I saw my father addressing the nation on TV. I know like me he was broken inside. I know like me he was terrified of what lay in front of him. As he spoke in that dark night, I felt a small glimmer of hope.”

He said that he realised he had a big responsibility in front of him and that people were standing behind him.

“Congress party is now my life, people of India are my life. I will fight for people of India and for this party. I will fight with everything that I have.”

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