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Rahul Gandhi takes a bullock cart ride during Saurashtra trip, hits out at Modi

Dwarka, DH News Service, Sep 25 2017, 21:22 IST
Picture of Rahul Gandhi visit on Day one of his three-day tour to Saurashtra region. DH Photo

Picture of Rahul Gandhi visit on Day one of his three-day tour to Saurashtra region. DH Photo

Unemployment, right price for farm produce, education, health, GST and demonitisation. These were the dominant themes of which Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi hit out at Modi government on the first day of his three-day 'Navsarjan Gujarat' yatra across politically sensitive Saurashtra region on Monday.

Saurashtra accounts for almost one-third of 182-seat Gujarat legislative Assembly and Rahul seeks to cover just about half of them over these three days, balancing both the rural and urban electorate.

The Congress scion began his whirlwind yatra after offering prayers at renowned Dwarkadheesh temple. He came to the temple 27 years after his father had come to pay visit to Lord Krishna. While the day for Congress vice president began on a milder note due to Navratri, that sees low number of tourists to this temple town, he moved on with his tour atop hi-tech convertible bus. Rahul's first stop was Bhatiya village, with several pit stops on highway entry points to villages as Nandana, where he was welcomed by the villagers.

In Bhatiya, Rahul climbed down from the bus to move nearer to the crowd of about 3500. "For a village with population of 6000-7000, it appears to be decent crowd. Moreover, the village is 50:50 BJP and Congress,"said a senior policeman present at the venue. However, what one could visibly see was that the ratio of women present was relatively low. In fact, this was visible across many of the roadside welcomes that Rahul received throughout the day. However, a relatively big group of men could be seen standing in sweltering heat for hours to welcome Rahul in this rural hinterland, a rarity for a Congress leader in quite some time.

The proportion of males and females was relatively more balanced at public meetings as one held at Hanjrapar, a village where Rahul rode to the venue of village chaupal atop a traditionally decorated bullock cart. He appeared relaxed and on a familiar stage. Moving amidst the large number of farmers and womenfolk of the village, he encouraged women to come up to him and share their problems.

“We have a school till 8th standard. We want you to help set up school at least till 10th so our children need not travel.” “We get Narmada water but once in 15 days.” “My son is a teacher but he is not getting decent salary as he is on a fixed salary of government.” “The land measurement in entire region for revenue records has been done improperly. We want that government include us farmers in land mapping.” “We have not received monies under crop insurance.” and “I am son of a farmer, so was my father and his father. Why do we have to suffer a lot these days.”

Taking the cue from these issues raised by the villagers, Rahul began his tirade against BJP. “There is discussion globally that India has progressed. But who brought India to present status? It is farmers like your grandfather and your father. Then why only industrialists are being favoured,” he asked the audience.

He decried the Centre and banks, saying that if they can write off millions in loans to corporates why not waive farm loans. “You are also Indian and they (industrialists ) are also Indians. If you fail to repay debt then you are called defaulters but if they do not pay debt, it becomes an NPA! The industrialists have defaulted over Rs 700,000 crore in debt to banks and their Rs 1.3 lakh crore has been waived off. The banks welcome them for a bailout but send poor to jail. This double standards must not exist,” he said.

From Hanjrapar, the Congress scion continued his day and tryst with the heat and dust of rural Saurashtra hinterland, even passing by Moti Khavdi, home to the massive refineries of Reliance Industries and Essar Oil, before reaching Jamnagar for last stop of the day.

In an interesting incident, as soon as Rahul landed at Mithapur in the morning, about 15 minutes drive from Dwarka, Patel quota stir leader, Hardik Patel, who also happens to be in the nearby district of Khambhaliya and Jamnagar for last two days, welcomed Rahul to Gujarat with a tweet. This overture by Hardik is being read with his earlier gesture towards Congress in Gujarat as a plausible shift of Patidars in Saurashtra. Patidaars in the region have traditionally been a strong support of BJP. Interestingly, Hardik is traversing through all the Patel dominated areas, while Rahul is slated to touch upon OBC dominated areas during his three-day trip.

Rahul is scheduled to go to Rajkot on the Day two of his trip and meet the people across villages in Rajkot and Surendranagar district.

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