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Rahul Gandhi insipid on Mulayam's turf
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Barthana, Etawah | April 03, 2007 18:06 IST
Last Updated: April 03, 2007 19:11 IST
It was his first attempt to make a dent in Mulayam's stringhold as he chose Barthana to hold a public meeting to woo voters back into the Congress fold.
No more than 5,000 people turned up for the meet at Gopinath Dixit Rice Mill compound, which is 45 km away from Mulayam Singh's birthplace, Saifai.
More disappointing was Rahul's 10-minute speech in which he repeated all his old phrases and had nothing new to say to the assembled people.
"All other parties have divided you on caste and religion in the last 15 years," said Rahul. "Uttar Pradesh was number 5 in the development radar of India but today it has fallen to the 20th position. Vote for the Congress for your future betterment," he added.
Mulayam Singh is contesting for the first time from Barthana and also contesting from his existing seat Gunaur in Badayun district in Terrai belt of Uttar Pradesh.
Before Rahul's speech, when this correspondent asked Manoj Kumar Yadav, a post graduate student whether he was eager to see Rahul, he said, "What is the hurry? Let his helicopter arrive. I will go then."
Gaurav Purwal, a farmer, said, "Rahul is going to be here only for a day whereas Netaji (Mulayam) is going to here forever. This is his hometown. We will be much better under Netaji than Rahul."
Asked about the chances of Congress candidate Ajay Yadav against Mulayam, Bholu Singh, an attendee, said, "The Congress will not even come second in this constituency. The Samajwadi Party's fight is with the Bahujan Samaj Party and Rahul cannot make any difference by coming here."
People were disappointed when a helicopter landed to discover that it was the Bharatiya Janata Party President Rajnath Singh and Hema Malini who had come to address another rally in Barthana.
Rahul arrived three hours late and the first thing he did was to apologise to the people.
There were chants of "Rahul Gandhi Zindabad," by some Congress supporters. Some womenfolk climbed terraces in small numbers to catch a glimpse of Rahul.
"After Independence, Uttar Pradesh was a model state but today it is down in the drains. Manmohan Singh's government does give enough money to UP but the government here is not properly utilising it," added Rahul.
His emphasis was on the bad law and order situation in UP and also the fact that development had been stalled.
Ajay Kumar, the Congress candidate, said, "The goondaraj of Mulayam is so strong in UP that we cannot even put our party flags everywhere. Many of our party workers could not come here because of the fear from Mulayam's men.
"We all know that there is a state of fear in UP today. So vote for Congress party and change your lives for the better."