Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s campaign pitch in Uttar Pradesh acquired a more forceful tone than before at his first joint rally with ally RLD Thursday.
RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary (34), watched by father and party chief Ajit Singh, matched steps with the 41-year-old Congress leader, focusing on bringing change in UP.
Gandhi worked the crowd at the Ramlila Ground in Meerut, about 60 km northeast of Delhi, throwing leading questions and getting boisterous replies.
His by-now familiar attack on the ruling BSP and chief minister Mayawati took the form of a question. “What does the elephant (BSP’s sybmol) eat?” he asked. “Money,” the thousands of men, women and children at the rally shouted in unison.
Gandhi slammed SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav too for making unrealistic pre-poll promises such as free electricity. “If you ask Mulayam to change the blue skies to green, he will readily promise that too.”
He sought five years to change the face of UP, “ruined during 22 years of rule by non-Congress governments”.
Chaudhary too mocked the BSP in his speech, tearing into its slogan sarvjan hitay, sarvjan sukhay (benefit and satisfaction for all). He said the slogan had turned to sarvjan dabay, sarvjan dukhay (oppression and sadness for all).
Dubbing BSP the Bhoomi Sales Party, raking up land acquisition rows, he said the ruling party had overlooked the interests of farmers, youth and the poor.
Singh, taking up reservation for Muslims, said that sub-quota for the community was neither new nor unjust. “It had been recommended by the Mandal Commission long ago.”
Focusing on Jats, a community to which he belongs, he said reservation for them in central services was essential to ensure social justice.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh assured that the matter was “under process”.
Polling in the seven constituencies of this western UP district is scheduled for February 28. In 2007, BSP had won five of the seats, BJP (which had allied with RLD then) one and the UDF one.Earlier, nine persons — two of them reportedly from the SP — were arrested while trying to disrupt the rally by waving black flags at Gandhi.