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Rahul Gandhi on bullock cart to woo voters

Rahul Gandhi has people eating out of his hands as he campaigns furiously for his mother Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 19:48 IST

Whether it's clambering on a bullock cart or simply recalling his family's association with the area, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has people eating out of his hands as he campaigns furiously for his mother Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli.

The star campaigner, who represents neighbouring Amethi in the Lok Sabha, is camping to ensure that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is voted to parliament with a thumping majority in the re-election on May 8 -- necessitated after she quit as MP over the office of profit controversy.

And as he gets into the heat and dust of canvassing, Rahul is trying hard to prove critics, who dismiss him as a high profile clan's scion and far too elitist to understand grassroots realities, wrong.

So on Thursday people were simply overwhelmed when the young Gandhi got off his air-conditioned Honda CRV and hopped on to a bullock cart to negotiate his way into a village where large crowds had gathered to hear him.

Even though he travelled barely a kilometre on the cart, locals in Kundwal village were bowled over with the readiness with which he disembarked from his vehicle in the scorching sun.

"Tell me who would do that?" asked Saraswati, who followed him into the village with her baby in her arms.

Much like his father late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, he doesn't hesitate to halt anywhere and everywhere to have a word with his teeming admirers, who seem awestruck by just their physical proximity to him.

"He is so simple and affable that you are just willing to do everything for him," commented Suresh, a roadside bicycle repairer.

Agreed tea stall owner Ram Niwas: "He is so much like his father; he readily mingles with the crowds and is always ready to lend them a ear without bothering about his security."

Excited crowds hail him with slogans like "Desh ka Neta kaisa ho Rahul bhaiya jaisa ho" (what should the country's leader be like ; he should be like brother Rahul).

His speeches are brief and crisp, reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi's initial days in politics in the early 1980s.

Rahul simply focuses on his family's half a century association with Rae Bareli.

Rahul also makes it a point to tell the crowds about how his mother chose to resign her Lok Sabha membership on account of controversies about her holding "office of profit", disallowed under the Indian constitution.

"It was in pursuance of upholding provisions of the Constitution, that she decided to step down and seek re-election, even though the position she held did not fall in the ambit of office of profit."

He reminds people of how his grandmother Indira Gandhi gave Rae Bareli the status of a city from an undeveloped semi-rural town and the efforts his mother had made to revive the dying Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) unit set up by her.

Taking potshots at the present government, he blames Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav for the poor development of Rae Bareli over the years.

"We have been writing to the Uttar Pradesh government for improvement of power supply in this area, but they do not respond; our demand for more roads and better roads has also gone unheeded," says the man, who has expressed his willingness to take over the campaign when the state goes to polls in 2007.

First Published: Apr 28, 2006 19:48 IST