Rahul Gandhi puts his aam admi card to test in UP
Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN | Dec 17, 2011, 04.42AM IST
Rahul Gandhi with party leader and Union law minister Salman Khurshid
at a public meeting in Farrukhabad on Friday.
BADAUN-SAHAJAHANPUR-FARRUKHABAD: October 9, 2007. The unmistakable
mention of the date in Rahul Gandhi's speeches in the campaign trail
sums up his journey in the Hindi heartland, a five-year period of
activities moulding him as aam aadmi champion, which he is now selling
hard to woo voters of Uttar Pradesh.
"I have one personality trait. If something gets into my head, I get
after it, I don't leave it. I want to change UP. Now, even if God
stops me, I would still say that I would change UP," Rahul told a
Farrukhabad gathering, enveloped in fog and darkness, on Thursday.
The statement of intent only underlined the gap between Congress's
organizational muscle and its mascot's aspirations, but that is what
next year's battleground UP is fast developing into - Rahul's
hard-sell of himself.
Across the vast land divided into Mulayam and Mayawati fiefs, Congress
heir apparent is driving long and making sharp speeches to create
space for his beleaguered party.
Rahul's use of Jhansi face-off (October, 2007), neatly overlapping
with Mayawati's tenure as the CM and marking the Rahul-Maya
confrontation coming a full circle, represents his own metamorphosis
from an upstart "yuvraj" who "bathes with a special soap after
visiting dalit houses" to a politician questioning celebrated
sons-of-the-soil like Mulayam about their grassroot connect.
As the second phase of Rahul's campaign in Mulayam stronghold shows,
Congress strategy lies in pitting his aam aadmi credentials against
rivals' alleged absence on this front. No wonder, the lead campaigner
in every speech first talks about his visits to dalit households,
reminds how only he took up the cause of farmers facing police action
in Bhatta Parsaul and Tappal, and the relief packages for development
of Bundelkhand and beleaguered weavers.
In the same breath come attacks on Mulayam and the morbid sarcasm on
Mayawati - "magical elephant, who eats currency notes", "the Amethi
hospital being polished for CM had dogs, not docs, inside".
UP polls will be Rahul's first test as an independent strategist, a
battle where pursuit of success leaves him with no exit route in
failure. A senior leader said Rahul is not thinking of costs of a
negative result. "He owned up the UP revival project and became its
mascot," he argued.
Nobody believed Congress-in-wilderness could plead to voters for a
chance to form the government, given that party had its own candidates
for only 150 of 402 seats, having to heavily bank on imports. Rahul is
daring that on the claim that he is Rahul.
That's the relevance of October 9, 2007, the time when he started
supping with dalits, talking about MGNREGA, foraying into Bundelkhand
et al, to target Mayawati. After five years, it has all come together
to test him in the ultimate examination called UP elections.
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