The Congress’s campaign for the first phase of the Assembly elections ended on an upbeat note on Sunday with Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow attracting large crowds across the city.
Rahul addressed several public meetings dwelling at length on how the BJP government was misleading people with false propaganda about the state’s remarkable economic development, which is not reflected at all on the ground. He told his enthusiastic audience that if the Congress comes to power, the party, unlike the BJP, would deliver the promises it has made.
Sunday’s roadshow was Rahul’s first campaign programme since he was appointed AICC general secretary earlier this year.
Rahul did not mention Chief Minister Narendra Modi nor did he talk about the law and order situation. Instead, he focused on Gujarat’s and Surat’s image abroad and how the state could enhance India’s impression beyond the border.
The Congress leader also invoked Mahatma Gandhi, saying that at the core of his philosophy was his unflinching belief in the eternal “truth”. But the BJP government in Gujarat was doing exactly the opposite and was hiding behind a pack of lies, he said.
“They (the government) feel that if they tell lies loudly enough or say it with anger, then the same lies become true. For example, the Gujarat government claims that the state is number one in attracting investments. But in reality Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are ahead of Gujarat. The state government claims that it has done a lot for the tribals. Actually, not a single land deed has been given to them. In education, 30 per cent people remain illiterate in the state.”
Rahul addressed the first meeting near Sargam Centre, an up-market residential-cum-shopping centre. From there he moved to the heart of the textile market at Sahara Darwaza. Then he moved to the old city area of Surat where the response to his campaign was even better.
All along the way, residents waved at the motorcade from the sidewalks, rooftops and balconies. Some also took the risk of climbing trees to get a glimpse of the Gandhi scion.
After some of the meetings, the MP also briefly disembarked from his black Pajero to mingle with the crowd, even shaking hands with a youth wearing a big Modi mask. In the old city area, hundreds of people crammed the lanes and by-lanes to be able to see and hear him.
Following him around the city was a sizeable crowd comprising Congress workers. They drove behind him in trucks and big cars, shouting slogans and playing patriotic songs. At the venues, drummers welcomed his arrival.
Some like 82-year-old former Congress MLA Chotubhai Contractor had braved the warm sun to hear the “youngest from the Gandhi family” speak.
Immaculately dressed in a starched white kurta-pyjama and a khadi jacket Contractor was even carrying a spool of yarn that he had spun on his charkha at home he was happy with Rahul’s speech but said elections are not won on ideology but on emotions.
Suraj Singh, a three-wheeler driver and a Congress worker, thought that Rahul had the charisma but still had to learn about politics. “He has a bright future.”