By Roop Kunwar Singh
February 6, 2013, SRCC’s annual management festival- This date and place marked the beginning of a wave which has been consuming the whole country’s interest for the past one year- The ‘Namo’ force. Exactly one year ago, Narendra Modi addressed a crowd comprising of the country’s future corporate leaders at the Business Conclave, Shri Ram College of Commerce and gave solid propulsion to his campaign for the parliamentary elections 2014.
This time it was congress’ turn to fling their representation at India’s premiere institute for commerce studies. Although, it wasn’t the absolute prime man of UPA and compared to last year, the hype was quite subtle, the persona of the Union Finance minister P. Chidambaram was magnetic enough to create a stir and pull the students to listen to his session on ‘Accelerating India’s Growth’. The crowd was overwhelming, and whole a lot of people had to content them with space for standing (me being one of them).
With Lok Sabha elections just around the corner, a lot of people including me had expected the session to be all about defending UPA’s controversy-studded reign. But his speech established that Mr. Chidambaram was there in the capacity of an economist and not a politician. He talked about some glaring shortfalls on part of both the government and the citizens. He highlighted the fact that last year only 42,800 citizens of the country declared their income to be in excess of one crore and lightheartedly remarked “I think we can find 42,800 people with income more than one crore in South Delhi alone”. Building upon this fact, he stated how we as a nation are our own biggest enemy.
Then he oriented the crowd with the skill development program put in place by the government and how it is imparting extensive skills to both children and adults. Well, being a rank holder in the UPA, he did drift off to defending the government stating that it had been successful in lifting 14 crore people out of poverty (okay, this was one exaggerated part of his speech) but he also mentioned that quantitatively, our poverty alleviation is not even one fifth of China.
Although his speech and candor were as impressive as it gets, his enigma and simplicity were the things that intrigued me the most. He arrived in a fiesta with a single body guard and as far as I believe, without any escort vehicle. Not many people know that he has refused security, something that Mr. Kejriwal has been advertising a lot. His manner, his punctuality, his demeanor- all exuded of a man true to discipline and committed to work. There was hardly anything political about his session- not even a single mention of Namo or AAP. No ‘blowing the mike off’ dialogue, no provoking the crowd, no howling, no growling. It was all pure academics. I don’t know about the general consensus, but as far as I could figure out, Mr. Chidambaram effortlessly won the respect of that young crowd.