Debating India

UTTAR PRADESH

Rahul connects with voters in Rae Bareli

Monday 1 May 2006

Meets elders, women; tells people to vote early

Walks down streets of Maharajganj Reminds voters of his family’s association with constituency Says corruption is holding country back

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Congress MP Rahul Gandhi waves to supporters during a `padayatra’ at Maharajganj in Rae Bareli on Sunday. - Photo: PTI

Rae Bareli: It was roses all the way for Rahul Gandhi who hit the campaign trail at nine on Sunday morning, criss-crossing the sprawling Lok Sabha constituency which has become synonymous with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Driving along dusty rural roads that disappear now and then, the young leader visited non-descript hamlets and spared a few moments for the village elders and women to listen to their grievances.

On Sunday, the Congress MP from the adjoining Amethi seat spent almost the entire day in Rahi block and reminded the voters of the long association of Nehru-Gandhi family with the constituency. "Rishtaa bada purana hai. (Our relationship is very old)," say posters carrying photographs of Feroz Gandhi, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia and Rahul.

At Maharajganj, the Congress MP literally hit the road to woo voters. Mr. Gandhi who left behind his Land Cruiser and hopped onto a bullock cart two days back at a village on Sunday made a pada yatra on Randhawa road that falls under the Rae Bareli constituency.

Rose petals were showered on him by people who virtually mobbed him as he walked down the road.

He showed keen interest in the welfare of a mentally and physically challenged child in Semra village. "I will send you a doctor to examine her," he assured Kesu Lal, father of the emaciated 16-year-old Reena Kumari, affected by polio and celebral palsy from birth.

Mr. Gandhi’s message to the voters was crisp. Avoiding lengthy speeches, he told the electorate to cast their ballot in the first few hours of polling before the sun gets too hot. He also told them they should carry their identity cards so that they did not have to trudge all the way back to their far-flung dwelling places to get their identity proofs.

Corruption, caste problems

In an interview published in The Sunday Times, Mr. Gandhi admitted that corruption and caste were holding the country back. He said he wanted to see India compete successfully with every other country and strive to eradicate poverty.

"India is rising, but I want to see it compete successfully with every other country, and I want to transform what you see here - poverty."

Rajiv’s killing

The 35-year-old leader said it was the killing of his father Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 by a suicide bomber that made him decide to enter politics.

"When he died I felt he was doing certain things to modernise the country and he was cut short. What he was doing was on the right track. He was bridging the gap between modern India and traditional India."

Referring to the plight of poor people in villages, he said he would like them to have better living standards than in the West. "We are a poor country. We have a lot of people in the villages with tremendous potential for entrepreneurship but it is denied to them. Corruption is holding people back, caste is holding us back," he said.

See online : The Hindu

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