An ILU, ILU movement for Congress chief Rahul Gandhi

Pune: Congress President Rahul Gandhi rarely discusses the affairs of heart. On Friday, he nearly brought the house down during a live interaction with 5,000 college students in Pune when he made a mushy revelation: “I love Narendra Modi.” Rahul possibly first gave an indication of his feelings when he had hugged PM Modi in Parliament. It was followed, of course, by the infamous wink, which would have taught Priya Warrior a thing or two about blinking.

In the free-wheeling interaction at the Lakshmi Lawns here, Gandhi took wide-ranging questions from the gathering, largely pertaining to jobs, education, healthcare and some even personal. Answering a poser from a student, he paused and said: “I love (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. I really do, seriously. I have no anger against him. I love him. But he harbours anger towards me.”

The comment was greeted with thunderous cheers and applause, though a section also took the cue and broke into the chant, ‘Modi, Modi.’ (Gandhi also tweeted later in the day that “hatred is cowardice” and he “will not hide behind hate and anger.”  “I don’t care if the entire world is full of hatred.

I am not a coward,” he said, advancing his philosophy of life that “I love all living beings, including those temporarily blinded by hatred.”To another question on his favourite childhood memory, Gandhi thought for a moment and said: “It was with my grandmother (late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi).

When she would come home from work, I would hide behind the curtains, and when she arrived, I would jump out and scare her. I know (now) that she was not scared, but she always pretended to be scared.” Responding to a query about his relations with sister Priyanka, he said: “We are very close, she is my best friend since childhood.

“From early childhood, we have witnessed lot of violence. First, my grandmother was killed, then my father (Rajiv Gandhi) was killed. All through, she supported me,” Gandhi said amid pin drop silence. Now, even after she has joined politics, the sibling bond remains strong; in fact, he never removes the ‘rakhi’ she ties and it probably lasts until the next one arrives.

“In the past there were fights, but not anymore. We may quarrel, argue, but before it becomes a fight, one of us steps back and ends it.” On a question about youth and the addiction to social media with most living in virtual reality, the Congress President said: “

If people choose to live in virtual reality, let them do it. “However, some day they will have to face the actual reality of life. Social Media (Twitter) will not take care of your parents. You will have to face the harsh realities then.” To a student’s question on who deserves credit for the recent Indian Air Force strikes, Gandhi responded firmly: “The IAF deserves all credit for it…”

He added that he has never claimed credit for such things in any of his speeches, but was totally against “politicising the IAF air strikes”, as was being done by Modi. Organised by Congress MLA Vishwajeet Kadam, the interaction – lasting around 75 minutes – was conducted in an informal manner with the two hosts – famed Mumbai-based RJ Malishka Mendonsa and Pune-based acclaimed Marathi film actor Subodh Bhave.

Responding to Bhave’s plans to make a biopic on him, to be directed and filmed by him, for which he was on the lookout for a hero to play the title role, Gandhi playfully pre-empted him: “I am wedded to my work.” The crowds cheered their approval.

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