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I have a vision for Uttar Pradesh: Rahul Gandhi
Santosh K Joy in Muradnagar | March 18, 2007 21:46 IST
Rahul Gandhi kicked off the Congress' campaign on Sunday to revive its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh ahead of upcoming Assembly polls, by asking people to defeat divisive forces and help the state regain its glorious past.
Uttar Pradesh, which had historically showed the way to the country, had lost its way after 15 years of misrule, the son of Congress President Sonia Gandhi told a public meeting, as he began a three-day road show.
Rahul said the time has come for the people to defeat divisive forces to help the state regain its glorious past.
Earlier, the 37-year-old MP from Amethi promised a 'new vision' and a 'golden future' for the state at a roadside meeting in Mohan Nagar.
"I have decided to work shoulder to shoulder with you all to end 15 years of misrule. Uttar Pradesh has been the cradle of development and all good things that has happened to the country including the independence struggle...I am here with a new vision and dream to restore the glory of the state," he said.
However, the public meeting here did not attract a sizeable crowd and began three hours behind schedule.
Local Congress leaders blamed the state administration for the thin attendance, saying many vehicles carrying party supporters were stopped before the venue of the meeting.
Rahul spoke in Muradnagar for just five minutes and dwelt on the lack of progress in the state under non-Congress governments.
More than 40 percent of the state's funds came from the Centre but they were not used properly, he said, asking where were the hospitals and roads that could have been built with this money.
"Sixty percent of Uttar Pradesh's population is young and they have the capability of leading it to a golden age...15 years of misrule needs to come to an immediate end. Uttar Pradesh will have to lead from the front. I have come here to work with you to take the state to its true glory," Rahul said.
State Congress chief Salman Khursheed said it was high time that Uttar Pradesh connected 'itself to the powerhouse called the United Progressive Alliance, which is providing energy to the whole country'.
On his way to Muradnagar, the scion of the Nehru- Gandhi family made several stops along his route and exhorted people to defeat 'divisive forces'.
A large crowd waited at the UP Gate to have a glimpse of Rahul, whose motorcade took about three hours to traverse a distance of 15 km.
The Congress has been in the political wilderness in the state for the past 15 years and hopes to improve its tally of 25 seats by using Rahul to rejuvenate the party.
Even Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has admitted that Uttar Pradesh continues to be a difficult challenge.
Rahul plans to touch 32 Assembly constituencies considered to be strongholds of Ajit Singh's RLD and the ruling Samajwadi Party, a bitter rival of the Congress.
He is being driven in the state by old family friend and former MP Captain Satish Sharma.
On his entry in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul was welcomed by Khursheed and party MPs. Rahul was cheered by large groups of people who gathered at the roadside and at 29 reception points set up by Congress leaders in Ghaziabad, Mohan Nagar, Muradnagar and Modinagar.
"My family and I live in Delhi but at heart we all live in Uttar Pradesh and think for the betterment of the state as it has gone back 15 years in terms of development due to corrupt politicians and corrupt governments," Rahul told people at the residence of local Congress leader Vinod Maheshwari in Modinagar.
The people's reaction, he said, reminded him of their affection for his late father Rajiv Gandhi and his grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
His family was grateful to the people for their support, he remarked.
Addressing a public meeting at Hana central college in Muradnagar at the banks of the Ganga canal, Rahul said there was a time till 1990 when Uttar Pradesh was held up as a model for development due to the leadership of the Congress.
But the state's per capita income was now lower than that of states like Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.
Rahul's motorcade took seven hours to cover the 35-km distance between Ghaziabad and Modinagar as it stopped many times so that he could interact with people.
At several places, he jumped out of his car to talk to people standing by the roadside.
The road show will cover six districts in western Uttar Pradesh in three days.
Rajya Sabha MP Rashid Alvi, local Congress leaders Gagger Singh, Om Prakash, Subhash Tyagi, Vinod Maheshwari and Rajesh Sharma received Rahul at different reception points. He was followed by over 1,000 Congress workers in more than 200 cars.
In Modinagar, Nagarpalika Chairman Sudhish Sharma received him with a band. People stood on roofs of buildings and by the roadside on the route between Ghaziabad to Modinagar to get a glimpse of Rahul.
In Modinagar, Rahul said, "My family, from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, has been indebted to the people of Uttar Pradesh and will remain indebted to them in future for the affection, love and blessings given by them. In response we did our best to serve the nation."
Rahul's bodyguards from the elite Special Protection Group had difficulty controlling the crowd at many places and people showered flowers and garlands on the young MP.