AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s ‘surprise’ tour of the Bundelkhand region over the last few days was finally confronted by the Mayawati government in Jhansi on Friday forcing him to stage, perhaps his first, street corner dharna.
The Gandhi scion was stopped by the police from proceeding to the divisional commissioners office to whom Mr Gandhi wanted to submit a memorandum regarding farmers issues and anomalies in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The administration, however, claimed that they had allowed only 10 people to accompany Mr Gandhi to his meeting with the commissioner. But he arrived with about 300 supporters. This led the police to stop him about 500 meters away from the office complex.
Mr Gandhi insisted on meeting the commissioner and resorted to sitting on a dharna to press for his demand. After about half-an-hour he was allowed to meet the commissioner whom he apprised of the farmers issues and anomalies in the implementation of NREGS.
Only recently UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had said at the state Congress’ convention in Kanpur that Mr Rahul Gandhi is prepared to be arrested and go to jail in the struggle against the state governments misrule. Mr Rahul Gandhi’s brief confrontation with the police and staging of a dharna perhaps marks his first brush with street level politics and agitations.
Over the last few days Mr Rahul Gandhi has been on a quite tour of the drought-hit Bundelkhand region spread over UP and Madhya Pradesh. His surprise visit to villages in the region is part of his effort to mingle with the rural people and know their problems first hand.
He has visited several tribal and dalit families in the area, eating their home made food and even spending the night in villages. In his interactions with the villagers much of Mr Rahul Gandhi’s focus has been on the implementation of the NREGS and the drought conditions.
Mr Rahul Gandhi’s overtures towards the dalits have already earned chief minister Mayawati’s wrath. She has repeatedly been attacking the Gandhi scion calling him the “crown prince” and also alleged that he uses “special soaps” to bathe and goes through a “purification ritual” after visiting Dalit homes.