Farmers brave rain for Rahul's kisan mahapanchayat
Braving heavy rains, farmers and Congress workers on Saturday gathered in Aligarh for the 'kisan mahapanchayat', marking the culmination of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's four-day foot march in Uttar Pradesh.
Travelling in buses, trucks and tractor-trolleys, the villagers arrived from the wee hours at the sprawling Nomaish Ground, amid tight security.
Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, Union Ministers Sachin Pilot and Jitin Prasad and state unit president Rita Bahuguna Joshi were among those present.
Gandhi arrived at Aligarh's exhibition grounds post noon to address a massive farmers' gathering in a show of political strength against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.
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Image: Hundreds of farmers attended the mahapanchayat
Cong leaders throng Aligarh
Delayed by rains, the Gandhi flew into the district and later reached the local exhibition grounds amid loud cheers from hundreds of farmers. He was flanked by All India Congress Committee in-charge Digvijay Singh and Joshi.
At the venue, which was soggy following rains through the morning, farmers, Congress leaders and supporters parked themselves wherever they found space.
While some occupied the wet chairs available on the compound, others, who were not so lucky, sat on rooftops around the venue.
Image: Salman Khurshid, Sachin Pilot among other Congress leaders attended the kisan mahapanchayat
Aligarh on high alert
The scene was one of frenzy and chaos in Aligarh, as traffic jams dotted the city and incessant rains made the life tough for commuters and visitors to the exhibition grounds.
The roads remained sealed to offer safe passage to Gandhi, who will listen to farmers' grievances for over three hours as part of his 'kisan mahapanchayat' programme.
Hundreds of police personnel have been deployed and a control room set up in a nearby hotel, from where authorities are keeping a watch on the venue.
"This is the first ever time a national party of the stature of the Congress has organised such a huge gathering of farmers," Joshi told the 'mahapanchayat'.
Image: Rahul Gandhi during the padyatra
'Rahul will herald change in UP'
We have come because we are hopeful that Rahul Gandhi's leadership will herald change in Uttar Pradesh," said a Congress leader from Meerut J P Singh, who has been camping at the grounds since Saturday night.
With Congress leaders and workers thronging the town, no hotel accommodation was available in the area.
Huge posters of Rahul Gandhi dominated the complex. Four big hoardings on the stage had pictures of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Joshi and Digvijay Singh.
A multi-tier security ring was in place in and around the venue. On Thursday, Rahul faced a security scare when a young man carrying a licensed revolver was detained while trying to move close to him in Tappal during the 'padyatra'.
Rahul on Friday wound up his foot march through the dusty heartlands of rural Uttar Pradesh and returned to Delhi.
Image: Rahul Gandhi interacts with a farmer during the padyatra