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My heart beats for India: Rahul Gandhi

Sharat Pradhan in Amethi | March 29, 2004 19:49 IST
Last Updated: March 30, 2004 08:48 IST

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Rahul Gandhi on Monday said he was not bothered by the opposition's references to his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi's 'foreign origins'.

"Let them attack us, let them abuse us, let them beat us or even let them kill us, my family's and my heart beats for India and will continue to beat for India," he said in Amethi, from where he will contest the Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket.

Asked how he proposed to counter the propaganda, he said, "Our family has never believed in issuing clarifications about things said about us by our enemies.

"We believe that we should remain focused on our target and strive towards achieving it. Let our enemies say whatever they wish to. We are what we are and people will know us by what we do, not by what such people have to say about us."

He referred to the Bofors case, in which his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was given a clean chit long after his death.

"I once asked my father as to why he never launched a counterattack in a case in which he was hounded by the opposition for 17 long years, but he told me that as long as one followed the path of truth, stood on the right track and was clear in his mind about what he was doing, there was no need to waste time and energy on issuing clarifications.

"I am also made that way. I have my priorities clearly laid down, I am focused and know what I have to do. The rest is meaningless for me," he said.

Asked to spell out his top priority, he quipped, "Well for the time being it is only Amethi, how to win the election and then focus on this constituency's unfinished development."

Rahul was accorded a hero's welcome.

After landing in a commercial flight at Lucknow, just as he drove about 50 kilometres to touch Chilauli village, the geographical boundary of the Amethi constituency, he was treated like a bridegroom.

Thousands of people cheered Rahul all along the 90 km route from Chilauli village to

Amethi, which his long motorcade took nearly seven hours to cover.

In the typical mode of his late father and grandmother Indira Gandhi, he would make it a point to halt wherever he would find enthusiastic crowds, particularly of women and children.

At one village he reached out to an octogenarian woman who was standing on the roadside with a rose garland, which he not only accepted but got his local party functionary to take down her name and address to pursue her pending case for sanction of old-age pension.

In another village, while he let a toddler garland him from the shoulder of his father, he remained unfazed when the child started crying as Rahul stretched out his hand to pat him. When a scribe tried to pull a fast one by observing 'perhaps this infant is not your supporter', Rahul's spontaneous one-liner 'then I need to convert him' -- left everyone dazzled.

"This reminds me of the time when I came here with my father for the first time in 1982. It is very, very heartening to find the same love and affection today as the people had then showered on him," he said.

While the entire highway remained virtually jammed for hours, people would swarm the roads just as Rahul's motorcade would enter a village or a town.

Men, women and children flocked along the road, pop out of their balconies or perch themselves on their rooftops to hail the arrival of the man whom they had already accepted as a 'son of the soil'.

He would often climb atop the roof of his vehicle to wave out to the teeming crowds, who responded with thunderous applause and cries of 'Rahul Gandhi zindabad'.

While Rahul's stride into the national parliament from the Amethi plank is a foregone conclusion, locals are only talking in terms of ensuring a 'record margin' for him at the hustings.

"Sanjay Singh who has been the strongest opposition candidate over the past two decades could not poll more than 1,18,000 votes at the 1999 Lok Sabha election when he was fielded by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) against Sonia Gandhi who won with a wide margin of about 300,000 votes", supporter Anand Shukla told

Rahul too makes no bones about his close affinity with this place. "These people are part of my family, whose association with this place dates back to 40 years ; and my coming here is to reassure them that this association is destined to continue for many more decades ahead," he said.

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