There were not many around when Congress MP Rahul Gandhi stepped out of his suite in Swaraj Bhawan late on Sunday night and walked across to the adjoining Anand Bhawan, the Nehru family’s ancestral home. It was 11 pm and he had barely returned from a well-attended political road show that cut through Allahabad city in the evening.
For the next two hours, Rahul visited all the rooms in the building, which was witness to landmark meetings related to the freedom struggle and where the Congress party and its politics took shape.
The young MP gave himself time to stroll through every room where Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru held strategic discussions and where Indira Gandhi picked up valuable lessons on politics from her elders.
There was no one to give lessons on politics to Rahul on Sunday night but he seems to be learning the ropes anyway. And it is hardly surprising that Allahabad and its gentry wants Rahul to emerge as the future of the Congress party, a future in which it would regain its lost position of being a party that plays the "politics of balance."
"Caste and communal politics have captured Uttar Pradesh since 1989. The Congress subsequently lost the backward castes to Samajwadi Party and the Brahmins and Pandits moved to BJP. After 1992 and the Babri Masjid demolition, most Muslims moved away from Congress. Later, the scheduled castes moved to BSP. And in this way, support for Congress withered," said senior lawyer at the Allahabad High Court, Rehman Ali.
Ali said that Rahul, with his fresh political approach, could begin the reversal for Congress. "Rahul is young and energetic and people of Allahabad expect something from him," Ali added.
Abhay Awasthi, who is been with the Congress since 1980, said Rahul’s popularity is also on the rise among people in the age group between 18 and 40.
"In this election, he has completed his political icebreaking. Rahul has also shown an aggressive streak by talking about the Babri Masjid and the division of Pakistan. Some Muslims may not have liked remarks about the Babri because the `shilanyas’ took place under Congress rule, but the remarks show that Rahul is willing to take risks," Awasthi said.
RK Sethi, administrator at Anand Bhawan, said that Rahul was very happy with the turnout at his road show. "On Monday morning also, more than 200 people turned up to meet him. He met all them, most individually and enquired about their problems. He was comfortable interacting with them," Sethi said.
Might as well for Rahul because as his political career takes shape, he would have to be more and more where the people are, talking about politics, which is blind to caste and community.