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PIX: All set for Rahul's Kisan Mahapanchayat

Last updated on: July 8, 2011 21:21 IST

All set for Rahul's Kisan Mahapanchayat

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Sahim Salim in Aligarh

Rediff.com's Sahim Salim has been following Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi throughout his walkathon. He reports on the massive preparations for Rahul's 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' in Aligarh, the last stop of his journey

100,000 -- That is the total number of people expected at Aligarh, the venue of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's 'Farmer's Rally' on Saturday.

Workers frantically dropped dry mud over poodles of rainwater across the ground. Struggling for time, they shovelled mud from a truck that turned turtle the night before.

Others put up posters and banners with live-size photos of the Gandhi scion and Digvijay Singh. Still others barked orders at workers to put the Congress tri-color around the three different stages being erected for the rally.

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Image: Workers digging out mud from an overturned truck
Photographs: Sahim Salim/Rediff.com
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"We have to get it done by 12 am tonight (Friday night)," says an anxious Beeri Singh Banjara, district speaker, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee Aligarh unit, who is one of the organisers.

The rally, which has been christened 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' and will be held at the Numaish Grounds, will be the culmination point of Rahul's four-day Padyatra (Walkathon), which covered over 70 kilometers, 30 villages and four districts across western Uttar Pradesh.

The sheer numbers expected to attend the rally is overwhelming.

"We have calculated, on basis of information coming from across the districts, at least 100,000 farmers to turn up. This is actually a modest estimate -- we think far more will turn up on Saturday," Banjara says.



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Over 300,000 square feet of water-proof, overhead tents have almost been set up.

As information pours in that more farmers may turn up than expected, organisers have extended the overhead tents across the ground. For respite from the sweltering Uttar Pradesh heat, they have set up over 100 desert coolers and 200 stand fans.
Several water taps have been set across the sprawling ground, which will get its supply from 40 water tanks and six municipality tankers.

Several thousand buses and tractors will bring the expected 100,000 farmers to Aligarh.

In Aligarh district itself, over 500 buses and 1000 tractors have been hired to bring villagers from hundreds of villages across the district. Similarly, 200 buses and 800 tractors have been hired in Agra.



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Malkan Singh Desmukh, the general secretary of Agra Youth Congress, says: "After Aligarh, we expect the maximum number of farmers from Agra. So we have hired the required number of buses to transport them into the city."

Three podiums have been erected for the rally. One podium will seat the chief guests -- Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh.

On the left of this podium is the VVIP stand, where state and district leaders will be seated. On the right to Rahul's podium, prominent farmers, who have been affected by Mayawati's land acquisition, will be seated. The affected farmers will interact with Rahul from this podium.

About 5000 Congress workers have been pushed into organising the rally, who started the work about 12 days ago.



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Says Sunil Maurya, Youth Congress member from Aligarh, "Ever since the incident at Bhatta Parsaul, we have been thinking of holding a massive rally for the farmers. When permission was denied by the Mayawati government to hold the rally in Bhatta Parsaul, we zeroed in on this ground. We began work here almost two weeks ago."

When asked how they are mobilising the farmers, Banjara says, "Each district Congress committee has been spreading awareness in their respective districts. They have been holding mini-rallies in their districts to invite the farmers to the event. Rahulji's padyatra also has helped immensely to mobilise farmers from districts like Aligarh, Gautam Budh Nagar and Mathura."

Says Maurya with a smirk, "So huge is our rally that the state chief minister, Mayawati, had to postpone the inauguration of a power house in Qasimpur. She was to inaugurate the powerhouse on Saturday, the same day as our rally."



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The amount being spent on the arrangements is being held close to the chest.

Estimates suggest several lakhs have already been spent on the rally, which might very well be seen as the start of Congress's election campaign in the state.

Says Nadeem Gafoor, the president of district Youth Congress, "The costs have been divided among different members of the party. For instance, someone has sponsored the podiums, while someone else is in charge of putting dry mud across the ground. Like this, there are sponsors for the tents, coolers, water tanks, etc."



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