NEW DELHI: What prompted you to hug Prime Minister Narendra Modi after your speech in Parliament, was the opening question for Congress president Rahul Gandhi at an interaction at the Bucerius Summer School.

And his response, “if someone hates you that is something they are doing, hate is their internal emotion, it is their reaction to the world. Responding to their hate with hate is foolish and is not going to solve any problem. The only thing you really control is how you respond to things. So when the Prime Minister was making sort of hateful remarks at me I felt the need to go and give him a hug, and tell him it is not a hateful world.”

“He did not like it, he did not like it but then as Gandhi wrote you can only counter hate with love. When I showed affection to the PM he was taken aback, he was upset by it, but it works, it really does.”

“Some in my party didn’t like it, told me later you should not have hugged him. I disagreed,.”

And in what was a stellar performance by any standards, Rahul Gandhi was able to spell out a strong alternative of dialogue and non-violence, as the only way to combat hate and violence. The reference to ISIS that has the BJP jumping in reaction, was a clear corollary of the same argument where the Congress leader used it as an example to buttress the point that if there is no vision, and an exclusive and not inclusive approach, forces like the “horrific” Islamic State tend to occupy the empty spaces and grow in strength. He was pointing out, very intelligently, that when the US moved into Iraq, those targeted and left out of the transformation process post war, drew links with similar forces elsewhere to form the IS.

“The other thing the West needs to think abou is the result of policies like it followed in Iraq and Syria, where it goes in without understanding the consequences, without understanding the societal dynamics. They might seem like weak countries but every country has a tremendous power view and you disorganised it, you upturn it, it will have dangerous consequences.” Clearly an argument beyond the ability of the BJP to understand, judging from its immediate reaction of Rahul Gandhi supporting the entry of IS into India!.

He spoke of his personal experience with violence and how the dead body of his fathers assailant did not make him happy. As he saw himself in that man’s children, their grief that they were not responsible for. “You might think you can fight violence with violence, it will come back. You can only fight it with non violence…. Of course there are people out there who are so angry, and so deeply infected by hate that it will take a huge effort but that is the only way forward. It is the philosophy I believe in.”

Again, “ the common narrative is that there is someone at fault and someone not. But in reality there are people at fault on both sides, just as there are people trying to solve the problem on both sides as well.”

He spoke of the transformation of India, and the consensus that dalits, minorities, tribals , poor farmers, needed a helping hand through the process. And all governments adhered to this, until the present government that has diluted the guarantee of right to food, right to work, and protection for the Scheduled castes and tribes. And the money from these is going into the coffers of a handful of corporates, he said. He spoke of the disastrous impact of demonetisation on small businesses. Of unemployment, Of Lynchings, and attacks on the vulnerable sections where all protection is being taken away.

Rahul Gandhi spoke without notes, quietly and in a conversation style. After the short address he took questions, in what was about an hour long program, that he answered at some length. He was courteous, smiling, urbane, suave in his presentation without fumbling, of hesitating, or seeming to have lost the thread. All in all an excellent performance, with Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sitting in the front row.