In places, such as this cane-farming belt, where Rahul Gandhi mattered little just over a year ago during the last UP polls, the Congress scion received cheer and applaud when he came visiting riot victims.
“Rahul Gandhi zindabad, zindabad,” hundreds of men in white caps shouted. Leaving his mother aside, Gandhi typically broke protocol, walking across a street to meet the crowd, scaring his elite bodyguards.
This may well be a sign of which way the recent riots could hurtle fear-stricken Muslims in the 2014 polls. “It’s over,” said elderly Tawli resident, Maulana Shafi, about the residents’ support for the Samajwadi Party.
Yet, the cheer for Rahul is no guarantee of votes yet. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi stopped by a relief camp, he first greeted with a cautionary welcome by Maulana Hakimuddin, a local Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind leader who said: “Everybody’s watching your government, sir. It is an opportunity for you to rehabilitate us.” “We will,” the PM told him.
“Pehle kar dikhana hoga (They have to do something concrete,” said Mohd. Naim, a youth. On the other hand, a sulking Azam Khan, SP supremo Mulayam Singh’s Muslim pointsman, has prompted rumours that Yadav is hunting for a fresh Muslim face.