Rahul Gandhi could have taken Greater Noida’s Sector 14-A or the DND Flyway. But he took the bumpy Dadri-Surajpur road instead to reach the troubled Bhatta-Parsaul village. For, he could have been stopped, or arrested, on the way.
Gandhi’s snap visit gives him a leg-up in the race to up the ante against the Mayawati-led government. Several politicians, including the BJP’s Rajnath Singh, were earlier prevented from entering Bhatta-Parsaul, where farmers clashed with policemen over land acquisition over the weekend, leaving four dead.The stealthy, 85-km drive went off just as planned. The Congress leader left his Delhi home in the wee hours, around 4.30 am, but peeled off his convoy, riding pillion on a motorcycle that intercepted him at a pre-decided point.
In half an hour, he was at Bhatta, the epicentre of the clashes in what was a political coup. UP farm minister Laxmi Narain dubbed the visit a “political drama” with an “eye on assembly elections” next year. But he did not give in to Gandhi’s demand for a judicial inquiry into the violence.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar saw a deal between Mayawati and Gandhi, wondering how he reached ground zero. Nearly 500 km away in Lucknow, the state government asked the same question.
In Bhatta-Parsaul too, groggy-eyed policemen had woken up to Rahul’s presence when villagers poured in and word spread. In Parsaul, where senior Congress colleague Digvijay Singh joined him, Gandhi went into a huddle with village elders and women. Somebody provided a charpouy and served tea.
“I feel ashamed to call myself an Indian after seeing what has happened here,” Gandhi told the farmers. “The (state) government here has unleashed atrocities on its own people.”
“I want to tell you that I am with you till your demands are met. Till your work is not done, the Congress party will not desert you,” he said to a thunderous applause. The Congress general secretary kept his word. And stayed overnight.
The UP government announced lifting of orders banning public gathering to avoid a stand-off. Sub-divisional magistrate Vishal Singh tried to persuade Gandhi to leave, but the Congress leaders went on foot to neighbouring Achchepur.
Jayanti Natarajan of the Congress said that Gandhi did not break any law.