Pune: Congress President Rahul Gandhi virtually brought the house down on Friday when he said: "I love Narendra Modi."
In a free-wheeling live interaction with over 5,000 college students at the Lakshmi Lawns in Hadapsar suburb 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 has anger towards me."
The comment was greeted with thunderous cheers and applause from the students, stunned even the hosts and the media, coming as it at the height of the Lok Sabha election season when both the ruling and opposition sides are firing poisonous darts at each other.
To another question on his favourite childhood memories, Gandhi thought for a moment and said: "It was with my grandmother (late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi). Before 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 Gandhi, 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 though, she supported me," Gandhi said amid pin drop silence.
Now, even after she has joined politics, the old sibling bonds remain strong, and Rahul Gandhi said he never removes the Rakhi she ties on him every year and it probably lasts till the next year.
"In the past there were fights, but not any more. We may quarrel, argue, but before it gets into a fight, one of us steps back and ends it."
On a question about how the modern day youth seem addicted to the social media and 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 preempted him: "I am wedded to my work." The crowds cheered their approval.