When Rajiv Gandhi Dazzled all of America with his Oratory…

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has left Indians, particularly those who have blind faith in the BJP, in a thrall.

The social media platforms are full of glorification of Mrs Irani, with some even saying it was the best speech ever made in Parliament. One chap even said all past Prime Ministers and Ministers were poor speakers.

What was ignored was that almost all past PMs’ were leaders of substance, making meaningful speeches. It is only corruption that did them in. Parliament is not a place for oratorical contests though in recent times it has degenerated into a platform for wild screaming.

Rajiv-GandhiIndia’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a great speaker, so was Indira Gandhi. And who can forget the great speeches that Rajiv Gandhi made in the U.S. – at the joint session of the Congress and at the Washington Press Club.

Standing Ovation: Rajiv Gandhi received a standing ovation at the end of his speech in the U.S. Congress during the course of which he had said: “India is an old country but a young nation: and like the young everywhere we are impatient. I am impatient and I too have a dream. I dream of an India – strong, independent, self-reliant and in the front rank of the nations of the world in the service of mankind.”

indira-gandhiAnyone who expected the inexperienced Indian PM to mollycoddle the U.S. was only left wondering what a smash hit he was in Uncle Sam’s territory.

It was an unrestrained, confident speech wherein Rajiv Gandhi criticised then US President Ronald Reagan’s pet project – the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), “or the Star Wars scheme” that proposed the introduction of weapons in space capable of deflecting a nuclear attack.

As quoted in this India Today report, Rajiv flatly condemned it as “an unwarranted militarisation of space and received concerted applause from Reagan’s Democratic opponents.”

Thumbs-Up from Senators: But the speech in which he also questioned American policies on Pakistan and Afghanistan did not antagonise President Reagan. Instead, it paved the way for an improved U.S. understanding of India and closer ties. Reagan was even said to have expressed his genuine pain and sorrow at Rajiv’s assassination.

The India Today report goes on to say that “he was literally mobbed by senators and Congressmen wanting to shake his hand. Even Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of India’s bitterest critics, couldn’t resist giving Rajiv a thumbs-up sign from his seat.”

The report provides a clinching summary of Rajiv’s visit thus: “Americans who saw the visit through a blitzkrieg of continuous front page and television reports and US officials who experienced it first hand, were left dazzled by the fact that despite his relative inexperience and youth, Rajiv handled himself with unnerving poise, easy confidence, charm, and often devastating wit in front of some of America’s most hard-boiled politicians and negotiators.”

G Joslin Vethakumar

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