Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi gets rousing reception in Vadodara

Oct, 11 2017 11:31:55 IST

Chhota Udaipur (Gujarat): Roads were full of cheering and whistling crowds. Curious on-lookers choc-o-bloc in verandahs and windows, walking in the sweltering heat and then waiting hours amid beating of drums and screams. Every word, every sentence getting a resounding reception. This was Gujarat on Tuesday — but the rousing reception wasn’t for Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi, who in his second leg of a three-day pitched campaign in Gujarat, inspired the imagination of the Congress rank and file, as well as hundreds of people where he travelled during the last two days and earlier in the Saurashtra region.

Congress public meetings in the state, over the past two decades, have been a mundane affair, when organised crowds would at best listen with rapt attention and disperse. At a public meeting in Karjan town comprising semi-urban townplace with a mixed population of Muslims and Hindus, the crowds cheered for Gandhi.

“When Narendra Modi ji took over as the chief minister, the public debt of the Gujarat government was Rs 6,000 crore and now it is Rs 2,00,000 crore. Where was this money spent?”, the crowds burst into “chor chhey chor”. Rahul asked if the farmers, the labourer, the students, the small traders benefit by this and there was an instant no in unison.

And in reference to the business dealings of the son of BJP president Amit Shah, the Congress vice-president said, “Jab Narendra Modiji pradhan mantri baney tou unhone kaha woh chowkidar hain… Ab Chowkidar kyon chup hain? Chowkidar hain ya bhaagidar.” This was matched with the same response, interspersed with shouts like “Jutho chhey, chor chhey.”

The response was almost same everywhere Rahul went on Tuesday — Kheda, Anand, Vadodara and Chhota Udaipur districts in Central Gujarat during the last two days.

Rahul struck a natural chord with youths at a question-answer session in Vadodara city, where he was asked everything from what would the Congress party do for the youth, free speech, attack on BHU girl students and privatisation of education.

He received a huge applause when in reference to the BHU assault on female students, he said overall development of girls was nothing more than a rhetoric and that “beti bachao, beti padhao” seemed to have become “Amit Shah ka beta bachao.” Rahul added that women was okay for the BJP and its ideologue RSS till they did not speak their mind, if they do they would be shut up.

The youngsters went into peels of laughter when he asked, “RSS shakha mein aapne kabhi mahilaon ko Delhi hain? Mainey tou nahi dekha, kya aapne shorts mein mahilaon ko shakha mein dekha hain? Mainey nahi dekha.”

While it is a palpable anti-incumbency against the Centre as well as the Gujarat government, in that order, that may be endearing Rahul’s words to many, but the Congress vice-president himself seems to have come off as a stark contrast to the amateur image created for him.

For instance, at the youth interaction in Vadodara he spoke of his own understanding of free speech. When taking a jibe at the RSS for considering women as the second fiddle who were best kept quiet, Rahul said, “Even if there is an unpleasant criticism, even if it has mistakes, it should be allowed. I don’t believe in suppressing anyone.”

Similarly, at another interaction with citizens of Vadodara on Monday evening, he said BJP may be speaking of annihilating the Congress, but he would never do it. He said: “I think both the BJP and Congress are parties of India’s ideologies… born because a section of people believe in each of these ideologies.”

” Therefore, I will never say that I want to annihilate the BJP from the country. They can say that about the Congress, but I cannot say that about the BJP,” he said. “I will fight the BJP, but never not respect its existence as it is an ideology from my country; so is Congress.”