Rahul talks to the farmers' hand

The Congress vice-president is now focusing tightly on farmers’ issues

Published: 11th September 2016 09:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2016 09:49 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: “Aap PK team se hain? (Are you from the PK team?”) That’s the question on the lips of farmers turning up for the roadshows as the Rahul Gandhi caravan rolled into Jaunpur at the end of the first leg of his yatra that started from Gorakhpur and covered 100 Assembly constituencies in eastern-central Uttar Pradesh, straddling Awadh and Poorvanchal. The Congress has only one MLA from

these 100 seats—this is Samajwadi Party turf mostly, accounting for Muslim-heavy areas such as Azamgarh.

An answer in the negative to that question sees the farmer losing interest and turning away in quest of someone from the “PK team”. The reference is to Congress strategist Prashant Kishor, and this parallel buzz shows how the Congress is building up some momentum in its bid to revive itself in this huge swathe of UP.

Prashant Kishor is moving around with a team of partymen armed with forms, where the most relevant entries relate to the loan/debt owed by the farmer. Locals are zeroing in on the team in the belief that this will ultimately lead to a loan waiver, as Rahul has been promising in his speeches.

There’s something markedly different here from the last Assembly poll campaign. There too, Rahul had campaigned but Akhilesh Yadav ended up getting the votes. It was an optics-heavy approach last time—Rahul would walk through rice fields, picking up a poor child. This time, he has focused more tightly on farmers’ issues. The tactics are more process-oriented.

A well-mounted “PK style” campaign, it is aimed at gathering steam on the way, which it is doing. And it’s running on the shoulders of local leaders;  Youth Congress and NSUI cadre are visible on the roads.

Rahul, when he’s travelling in a town, uses an open-top SUV. On highways, he shifts to a bus done up with Hindi slogans on loan waiver, cut in bijli price and hikes in MSP. Faces of local leaders adorn the sides of the bus along with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. Ahead of a two-day break for Eid, Rahul stops for lunch at a madrassa in Jaunpur. “The bawarchi (cook) is from Lucknow,” says an insider. That’s typical. A common touch, along with food fit for nawabs.

During a roadshow at the Malipur chauraha, Rahul picks up one Guptaji for cross-questioning on the petrol price, job creation and topics like that. “Janta trast, Modi mast” (people in distress, Modi in delight) is a favourite one-liner for Rahul.

After the Eid break, the caravan will resume its journey into central and south UP from Allahabad, K Raju, Rahul’s aide, says, ‘’Just a two day break, then we are back on the road.’’ Less ‘khat Sabha’ (cot conference) more roadshows.

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