Indian elections have the uncanny habit of turning the mundane into exciting, adding dollops of colour and flavour to rallies and giving an added zing to ceaseless drone of netas.
On Tuesday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi turned Baran into a fair ground, whipping up the first burst of electoral heat and dust in the district headquarters of Kota as he virtually kicked off the party’s campaign in poll-bound Rajasthan.
Rahul Gandhi addressed a well-attended public meeting at the Krishi Upaj Mandi after laying the foundation stone of a river dam project.
While the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family tore into the BJP with a vitriolic attack on the opposition party, people dug into food packets comprising namkeen (salted snacks), poodi (bread), cooked green chilies and nukti (a local sweet).
Congress worker Kavish Kumar said that the food packets were provided by the party as the people had travelled a long distance to “see and hear their favourite leader”.
In fact, the party left no stone unturned to play the perfect host, providing buses, trucks, tractor-trolleys and even private vehicles to ferry people to the rally ground.
250 ml water pouches – also supplied by the ruling Congress in the state – helped the people cool off under a blazing September sun even as Rahul Gandhi let off steam in his scathing attack on the BJP.
Gopesh Sharma, a farmer from Charchauma area of Kota, for one, admitted that it was fun all the way to the venue on a bus which blared patriotic songs from a loudspeaker.
“We had food together…it seems like a picnic,” he added, putting the entire event in perspective.
Before the arrival of the Congress leader, the dhabas – roadside eateries -- along the National Highway No. 27 did brisk business, catering to people on their way to the venue. Hawkers went round the venue, peddling groundnut to anyone interested in a quick snack.
At the venue, people jostled to grab Congress caps with pictures of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul. Enthusiastic party workers beat drums and danced to staccato tribal tunes even as others raised full-throated slogans in praise of their leader.
“I have seen Rahul on television screens and photograph but came today to see him in person,” said 53-year-old Deendayal, a Sahariya tribal from the Sevni region of Baran district.
Thousands of people trooped into a huge tent spread across 28 bighas of land. Large LCD screens were also put up at strategic places to ensure that none missed the chance to have a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi.
The first glimpse of chopper carrying Gandhi sent a ripple of excitement throughout the crowd sending some over-zealous youths scurrying up bamboo poles for a better view. Others stood up, waved and cheered as Rahul Gandhi took the dias.
Playing his part of a leader connected to the people, Rahul Gandhi did not forget to mingle with the people and shake hands with some of them after delivering his address.
Local Congress leaders, in the meantime, were deploying volunteers to do a headcount. After all, nothing beats an election rally with a “huge attendance”.
And true to tradition, Congress leaders claimed an attendance of more than 2,00,000 though others put the number at 50,000 less.