In Mayawati's bastion, Rahul bhaiyya steals show
Indo-Asian News Service, Thursday April 15, 2010, Ambedkar Nagar
If sheer attendance at their respective rallies were to be the
criterion, Rahul Gandhi clearly stole the show over the Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP) in this Dalit bastion Wednesday.
The Congress rally convened in Ambedkar Nagar, about 180 km from
Lucknow, to mark the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar as well as 125
years of the party, drew a far bigger crowd as compared to the BSP
rally held at a ground just a stone's throw away.
The packed venue of the Congress rally was twice the size of the
ground where Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's close aide and
state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Lalji Verma was leading the party
show. Verma's influence as party legislator from this district failed
to make much impact in the face of Gandhi, who had visited the place
just once earlier.
Cutting across age, caste and creed, the crowds cheered Gandhi each
time he promised to alleviate their miseries.
"Rahul bhaiyya appears to be sincere in whatever he says; he somehow
forces you to believe that he means business and will not betray the
poor," said 85-year-old Vishwanath, who reached here by bus from
neighbouring Siddharth Nagar district. "I belong to a backward caste
and have only seen discrimination; but Rahul Gandhi lends hope," he
Said Siya Ram, 45, who was doing good business by selling eatables
outside the Congress rally venue: "I have never seen such a crowd at
any political rally here in many years; Rahul Gandhi has somehow won
the hearts of the people."
Siya Ram, a Dalit, was among those who claimed to have been a staunch
BSP supporter until recently. "I did support BSP in the hope that it
would bring an end to the woes of my deprived community; but the party
seems to be taking us for granted."
Apart from addressing the rally, Gandhi also flagged off 10 "chetna
yatras" (awakening marches) as a part of his mission to revive the
Congress in the state.
Initially, the local administration refused allotment of a particular
ground sought by the Congress for the Gandhi rally on the plea that it
was already blocked for the BSP rally. Later, the administration also
came in the way when Gandhi's desire to garland Ambedkar's statue was
conveyed to them.
"The administration claimed that since Ambedkar's statue happened to
be on the ground where the BSP rally was proposed, it would not have
been practically possible to take Rahul Gandhi to that crowded spot;
hence he had no option but to garland Ambedkar's portrait that was
kept on the dais," state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi told
"The ruling party had by design allotted the bigger ground to the
Congress so as to embarrass us if the rally did not attract enough
crowd; but that plan too proved counter-productive as Rahul Gandhi was
a huge draw with the crowds," she added.
What added strength to Gandhi's show was the participation by all
sections of the Congress leadership.
"This was the first time in many years that such a large galaxy of
Congress leaders converged at any single occasion, sending the message
that we stand unitedly behind our young leader whose mission is to
re-establish the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh," said Joshi.
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