Overruling objections, Rahul Gandhi to go ahead with his surprise visits to backward villages in UP.
It seems that after wining over the ‘backward’ villagers in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul went directly for the intellectual elite! So it was a visit to Delhi’s JNU for the Gandhi scion after his tour of UP.
By most accounts, Rahul Gandhi’s visit went well with quite a bit of back and forth – all polite – between him and questioners who were determined to pose some tough ones to him. All went well, however, and his late-night visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and his interaction with the students on the campus won him praises not only from the Congress but also from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP.)
At the Jawaharlal Nehru University, supposed to be a Left bastion (the student unions of the Left parties have traditionally dominated the JNU), the students asked Rahul Gandhi a variety of questions that ranged from his visits to the houses of Dalits and “family politics” to educational reforms and economic growth in the country.
A week ago, Rahul Gandhi, 38, made an unexpected visit to the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh where he mingled with the Dalit villagers. The other day, he paid a late-night visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and interacted with the students on the campus.
Most likely from October 8, 2009, Rahul Gandhi – Congress general secretary, Member of Parliament and the son of Congress president and chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Sonia Gandhi – is to embark on a 3-day tour of Jharkhand ahead of the Assembly elections in the state. While in Jharkhand, he is scheduled to spend a day each in Jamshedpur, Ranchi and Chaibasa.
In Jharkhand, apart from holding discussions with Youth Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi will interact with intellectuals and businessmen as well as have tea in a tribal village in Chaibasa.
Reports say that the Dalits of Rampur-Deogan village in Uttar Pradesh, which Rahul visited a week ago, still find it hard to believe that the VVIP was in their midst, did talk to them, shared their food and even spent a night on a string-cot under the open sky. No, he did not stop with that: in the village, he bathed in the open, drawing water with a hand-operated pump.
The remote Rampur-Deogan village is in Shravasti district, about 250 kilometres from Lucknow, the state’s capital. Chedda Pasi, the son of the village chief of Rampur-Deogan, described Rahul’s actions in the village as nothing short of “incredible.” He has good reason to think so: the villagers rarely have a chance to see the face of the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) whom they have elected. And, here was Rahul Gandhi living with them for a whole night and part of a day!
The villagers of Rampur-Deogan recall that the last time any VIP worth his name visited their village was 12 years ago – that was Arif Mohammad Khan.
Rahul Gandhi’s surprise journey through the villages was intended to have a first-hand experience and understanding of the way the poor people of India live. And, his visit to Rampur-Deogan village was the most significant one he made outside of Amethi (his constituency) and Rae Bareli (his mother’s constituency).
Despite the apparent popularity of Rahul Gandhi in UP, it is unclear whether these will translate to actual votes and seats for the Congress. It seemed to have worked for them in the last assembly elections where the Congress, out of nowhere, managed to land 20 % of the seats to the Lok Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. No wonder this upset and angered Mayavati – she already has her plate full with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi party, and BJP to contend with, and she can well do without a Congress resurgence in UP.
The UP state government has accused Rahul Gandhi of breaching VIP security rules and also protocol with his “surreptitious and surprise” visit to the Rampur-Deogan village in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati even went to the extent of terming Rahul’s visit a “drama.” Once earlier, she had alleged that Rahul bathed with a “special soap” after eating at the home of a Dalit.
According to Congress source, an undeterred Rahul Gandhi is firm on going ahead with his “unannounced, surprise visits” to the backward villages of Uttar Pradesh and has even “identified” as many as 26 districts for such visits to get a first-hand feel of the “ground reality.”
Rahul Gandhi, who is also the general secretary in charge of the youth wing and the student wing of the Congress, has already set in motion the process of holding the elections within the Youth Congress. It has been planned to conduct organisational elections in the Youth Congress in all states by the end of 2010.