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Motorcycle diaries to political platform

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally together for the first time in the state, bringing back memories of their fathers having done the same two decades ago.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2009 00:41 IST

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally together for the first time in the state, bringing back memories of their fathers having done the same two decades ago.

Though personal friends, who famously share a passion for motorcycles and computers, the two had never been politically close till their respective parties — the National Conference and the Congress — formed a coalition government in the state after the assembly polls last year.

Both born in 1970, Omar in March and Rahul in June, they shared a common platform at Vijaypur — a small enclave 20 km from Jammu city — hours before the first phase of campaigning ended, to urge the vast crowd that gathered to vote for their common Jammu candidate Madan Lal Sharma.

Omar and Rahul’s fathers, Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi, had come together at a similar historic rally at Srinagar in 1987, soon after their parties forged an alliance to contest the 1987 assembly polls together.

Rahul devoted much of his speech to setting the record straight on whether or not Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have resigned had the Indo-US nuclear deal not been ratified by Parliament last year. After the PM recently insisted he had been prepared to do just that, the BJP — the Congress-NC’s main opponent in Jammu — had unearthed statements made by Singh at the HT Summit last year to suggest he had taken a very different position at the time.

“I think the deal is in the interest of the nation,” Rahul in his speech recalled the PM telling him, “and if the government falls in the effort to pass it, let it fall.”

Earlier in the day, wearing a flaming orange turban, Rahul addressed a meeting at Talwandi Sabo in Bhatinda, Punjab, where again he spoke up strongly in defence of Singh, calling him a Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab). “He is not a weak prime minister at all.”

Campaigning for Congress candidate Raninder Singh, son of former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Rahul also sought to win hearts and minds by paying obeisance at the Takht Damdama Sahib in the town and mingling with the locals.