Thousands of hands went up in the air to greet the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as he landed in the semi urban constituency of Aurangabad in Bihar after making the crowd to wait for two hours in the open on a hot sunny afternoon.
Even as the cloud of dust raised by his helicopter swept the Gandhi Maidan where he made his first 2014 Lok Sabha election foray in Bihar, the cheering crowd took it as some kind of showering of flowers by the Gandhi celebrity.
The Gandhi scion left no stone unturned to assure the impressive gathering that if the Congress led UPA were to get yet another term to rule India, he would ensure complete transformation of their lives.
“We have a concrete plan to create 10 crore jobs over the next 5 to 10 years. The process has already begun with work having commenced on two major industrial corridors. We have initiated the biggest ever infrastructure projects in the country,” he said.
Hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, Rahul said, “The Congress party does not believe in lip service. The leader of another party only keeps talking about its much hyped Gujarat model.”
Amid cheers, Rahul said, “The people of Bihar are not interested in the so-called Gujarat model. This state is endowed with enough to build its own Bihar model."
He mocked the BJP’s ‘India Shining’ campaign launched in 2004 and 2009. “Their balloon of India Shining burst in 2004 as well in 2009... This time they are also filling a similar balloon with a gas cylinder which will also burst like in the past," Gandhi said.
Claiming that Congress was the only political party that has genuine concern for the poor, Rahul said, “BJP's basic philosophy was about concentrating wealth only in a few hands as against our mission to strengthen every poor man’s hand.”
Citing several examples of the Congress party's initiatives, he said, “We brought NREGS as a part of guarantee of jobs to the rural poor, we introduced right to food. What we have planned now is right to health and medication. It will go a long way to ensuring treatment to the poor, who often do not have access to medication,”
Even though the Congress has a very poor presence in Bihar where it won only two of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2009, the party was hoping to double its tally this time after striking an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The selection Nikhil Kumar in Aurangabad has lent hope to the party to revive its fortunes after a long gap. A former Commissioner of Police of Delhi, Kumar rose to become Governor of Kerala, which he quit to contest the poll from Aurangabad. His resignation from the coveted position was recognised as a “sacrifice” for the sake of Aurangabad, his native home.
Kumar’s wife Shyama Singh has been a Congress MP from Aurangabad in 1999, while Kumar's father Satyendra Narain was among Bihar's former chief ministers and his grandfather Anugrah Narain Singh was a Congress stalwart in the fifties.
The electoral battle lies clearly between him and Sushil Kumar Singh who won the last two elections on a Janata Dal-United ticket. This time he has switched sides to the BJP. T
Though there is little he has done for this underdeveloped region, he has also earned the infamy of a party hopper. Both Sushil Kumar Singh and Nikhil Kumar are Thakurs but Kumar has an edge because of his lineage.
Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi