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How Rahul Gandhi sprung a surprise with India Gate vigil for Kathua, Unnao rape victims

Rahul Gandhi, and the Congress, seemed to have learned from their earlier mistake of taking days to react to the December 16 rape in 2012 that galvanised citizens across the country to demand justice.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2018 07:31 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Kathua rape case,Unnao rape case
Congress president Rahul Gandhi takes part in a candle light vigil at India Gate to protest against the growing incidents of violence against the children and women, in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s spontaneous decision on Thursday evening to hold a midnight candlelight march over the Unnao and Kathua rape cases saw surprised party leaders pressing panic buttons to activate workers.

A Congress leader familiar with the developments said Gandhi had conveyed his decision to general secretary Ashok Gehlot who in turn directed other office bearers to ensure maximum presence in the march from the party’s headquarters at 24, Akbar Road to India Gate.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken got a message from Gandhi at 8:15 pm and he immediately activated the workers.

At 9:39 pm, Gandhi took to Twitter to announce his march. “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does. Join me in a silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil at India Gate at midnight tonight to protest this violence and demand justice,” he tweeted.

Perhaps, Gandhi had in mind the backlash he and his party faced for their delayed response to the gang rape of a paramedic in Delhi on December 16, 2012.

During that time, Gandhi, his mother Sonia, who was Congress president, and Manmohan Singh, who was Prime Minister, faced severe criticism for not speaking publicly on the crime for days. The BJP and other parties had effectively used the incident as a handle to corner the Congress over the issue of women’s safety.

But on Thursday, Gandhi was quick to seize the opportunity though he had by then faced enough flak on the social media for his silence on the matter.

The Congress chief was joined by sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, her husband Robert Vadra and other senior party leaders in the vigil. The BJP was caught unawares.

“It was Rahulji’s initiative and (there was) spontaneous response from Congress workers and citizens alike. We never expected such a huge response. In a short span of time, thousands of people assembled for the march,” Maken said. He said the Congress will continue to hold such protests in the coming days, and in Delhi, party workers will fan out across 14 districts to seek justice for the victims.

Political experts called it a well-timed move by the Congress president. “Rahul represents a younger generation and the incident has shaken the entire country. It was a good and from-the-heart gesture, and conveyed the right message to the young people enraged over the Kathua and Unnao rapes,” said political analyst Professor Balveer Arora.

On Friday, Gandhi thanked all those who had assembled for the march. “Thousands of men and women stood up to be counted in the battle for justice and to protest the rising acts of violence against girls and women. I thank each and every one of you for your support. It shall not be in vain,” he tweeted.

First Published: Apr 13, 2018 23:16 IST