Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sounded the party’s bugle for the UP election here on Friday in a rather unique manner. Instead of addressing a rally for the purpose, which is the norm with political parties, he fielded questions from party workers at an interaction with prospective candidates. He declared that the party’s mission was to “make UP number one”.
The peculiar format, devised by the party’s election strategist Prashant Kishor, aka ‘PK’, was apparently a runaway success amply reflected in the constant rounds of applause by the sizeable crowd. UP unit chief Raj Babbar shared the stage along side with Sheila Dixit, Ghulam Nabi Azad and other state level leaders.
Rahul faced some uneasy moments during the Q & A session, too. Perhaps the most difficult one about why a 78-year-old leader was the chief ministerial candidate. Without losing his cool, Rahul answered: “The energy of the youth is extremely important in an election. But, experience is equally important. Sheila ji has ruled in Delhi for three consecutive terms and people there are still praising the development work she has done.”
As the swathes of party cadres clapped and cheered, the experiment which PK had been planning for over a month seemed to have worked. The expansive Ramabai Ambedkar rally ground with a capacity of over a lakh swayed with a multitude of Congressmen party leaders have not seen in the last 27 years since the Congress lost power in 1989.
The crowds were being managed since morning in a very organised manner, with each prospective candidate required to register along with at least 10 booth level agents. The applicants were also asked to submit a question they wanted to ask Rahul.
The questions were later picked out randomly. Rahul also answered impromptu questions from the ticket seekers with great aplomb. To a question about whom he saw as the biggest challenger in UP, he said: “The biggest challenge is to unite. Once we are united, there is no challenge. No one can defeat us.”
On how the Congress would improve UP’s law and order, the proverbial Achilles’ heel for the Akhilesh Yadav regime, Rahul said: “Police stations have become party offices. We will change all that. Those who don’t perform, will be shunted out.”
Though the party’s first big show turned out to be a huge success, many were disappointed over Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s absence. There had been a buzz in the party circles that she would be coming for the workers’ convention, too. No party leader was willing to comment on whether she would join the campaign at a later stage.