RaGa’s Kerala campaign: Youth, kids, elderly swarm to greet leader who speaks of ‘Nyay’

During his election campaign in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi focused on Nyay scheme, youth, and local issues too. He also promised MSP for rubber, coconut and paddy

RaGa’s Kerala campaign: Youth, kids, elderly swarm to greet leader who speaks of ‘Nyay’

Ashlin Mathew

The NTPC guest house where former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had stayed on Monday (March 22) after the first day of campaigning in Kerala, was teeming with security forces, youth Congress members and people who had come to submit their requests in the 3-odd minutes that he would walk from his room to the car.

One of those waiting was Madhu Bharathan of All India Radio. He had come to request Rahul Gandhi to raise the issue of AIR-Kerala in Lok Sabha. “There was an order in November 2020 to decommission the high-power Alappuzha transmitter. It was put on hold due to opposition to the move. “However, the order has not been revoked. The government gave new transmitters to other AIR stations. Even though transmitters in Alappuzha and rest of Kerala are outdated, we were not given new ones. We wanted to bring it to his notice,” underscored Bharathan, who was hopeful that Rahul Gandhi would raise the issue.

After posing for photographs with Youth Congress members, accepting a lighting lamp made of coconut shell, the security personnel just managed to get Gandhi into his vehicle. By then it was already 10.15 am. He was scheduled to reach Paruthumpara in Kottayam for a corner meeting by 11.15 am.

It was evident that news had travelled that Rahul Gandhi would be driving down the Alappuzha-Kottayam route through Changanassery. Fishermen, housewives, men and children began lining up along the road. None of them were party workers. They were there to catch a glimpse of the man, hopefully touch him and maybe if he stopped, a picture.

RaGa’s Kerala campaign: Youth, kids, elderly swarm to greet leader who speaks of ‘Nyay’

Pressed for time, but yet touched by the people waiting in the melting morning sun, Gandhi slowed down his vehicle to wave at and touch them. Soon enough the car came to a grinding halt near Ramanchery when men stood in the middle of the road to stop the car. On the side were fishermen waiting for him to hear their concerns. Without stepping out, he listened to them with Congress general secretary KC Venugopal translating.

Crossing Changanassery, into Paruthumpara in Kottayam, the mood on the ground changed. Crowds thronged the road, both supporters and families, for they had come to see both Kottayam’s own Kunjoonju aka Oommen Chandy, and Gandhi. Flags and drummers lined up the roads. Gandhi realised waving from within the car would not do justice to the welcome he received. He sat on the roof of the car to wave at the packed crowds. Finally, he reached the stage amidst cheers and excitement.

Rahul Gandhi understood the crowds wanted Chandy on the stage and he waited until Chandy made it to the stage. It led him to quip that what he liked most about Chandy was that he was always amongst the people. Soon, Gandhi noticed a young girl Agnes near the stage and called her to stand beside him.

Overjoyed at the prospect of sharing the dais with the leader she had hoped to see, Agnes made her way to the stage. After introducing Kottayam candidate Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and Kerala Congress’s Changnassery candidate VJ Laly, Rahul Gandhi began his speech by thanking everyone for having waited in blistering heat and invoked Agnes’s future.

Rahul Gandhi said he was worried about the future of all the youngsters in Kerala. He asserted that even though she would study, she was unlikely to realise her full potential within the state. Hitting straight at LDF, Gandhi underscored that UDF wanted to build a Kerala where a child’s background would not matter and everyone would have enough opportunities. Unlike the UDF, the LDF and BJP-RSS want youngsters to believe in their party ideology to get benefits from the system, said Gandhi.

RaGa’s Kerala campaign: Youth, kids, elderly swarm to greet leader who speaks of ‘Nyay’

Slamming the LDF for ignoring the PSC rank holders, Rahul Gandhi said neither the Chief Minister nor the ministers met the protesting youngsters who did not get jobs despite being on the rank list because LDF gave it to their supporters.

“The CM did not meet them as he knew, he would be exposed. If UDF were in power, our CM would have met the protestors,” asserted the Wayanad MP, while reminding everyone that Kerala had high unemployment numbers.

He said UDF would not care about anyone’s ideology but would be committed to helping each and every Kerala citizen.

“As soon as the UDF government would come to power, it will enact the Nyay scheme, which will put Rs 72,000 annually into the accounts of poor families. No family will have an empty account,” he underlined. ‘Nyay’ is acronym for ‘Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ or the Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme.

Continuing with his people friendly and pro-poor schemes, he assured Rs 250 per kg for rubber in Kottayam amidst resounding cheers. Kottayam is reportedly the country’s largest rubber producer and the farmers get currently Rs 225 per kilogram.

By the time he wrapped up his speech, Kerala Congress leader PC Thomas, who had recently exited NDA to join hands with Kerala Congress (Joseph) faction in UDF joined the first vehicle in the cavalcade. It was him signalling to all the people on the road that he was here to stay with the UDF.

RaGa’s Kerala campaign: Youth, kids, elderly swarm to greet leader who speaks of ‘Nyay’

As the cavalcade made its way to Manarcaud in Puthupally Assembly constituency, which has been Chandy’s seat for decades, the crowd grew bigger. The crowd insisted both Rahul and Chandy appear through the sunroof. Though there was a meeting site, Gandhi would not have been able to move through the swarm of people. He decided to give the speech from the vehicle where he slammed the LDF, BJP and RSS for their political violence. “UDF will take everyone along,” repeated Gandhi.

All through Kottayam, he announced the minimum support price for rubber, coconut and paddy. He highlighted the pro-people policies of the previous government and assured the implementation of Nyay in Kerala. “We enacted MNREGA, which promised 100 work days to the poor, we enacted the Right to Education and Right to Food. We are now promising to put money in your pockets to kickstart the economy,” Rahul Gandhi said.

The promise drew cheers from the residents of both Manarcaud and Ponkunnam, where he had stopped for his third corner meeting of the day. He was scheduled to reach Ponkunnam by 1.15 pm but reached only by 2.30 pm. Gandhi was running late and he was scheduled to attend seven more meetings before 8.30 pm, after which he had to head to the airport to catch the last flight to Delhi at 10 pm.

An hour late, at 3.15 pm, he reached Pala, which will see an intense contest between Jose K Mani of Kerala Congress (M) and Mani C Kappan of the Congress. Jose K Mani had left the UDF in June 2020 and joined the LDF in October 2020, just before the local body elections.

Here Rahul Gandhi showered praises on Kappan invoking his career as a volleyball player. Gandhi said the Opposition would not be able to recover from Kappan’s smashes. The crowd erupted.

Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, assured the implementation of Nyay and invoked the sacrifices of Kerala nurses. “All over the world, people want nurses from Kerala to work for them. This is because they understand the pain of the patients. They are kind and considerate,” pointed out Gandhi to loud claps.

A woman and her two children had travelled 8 kms from Bharananganam to Pala to hear Rahul Gandhi speak. “I wanted to hear Gandhi speak and show him to my children too. We wanted to know what he would promise. Jose K Mani’s victory is not assured. He doesn’t come to meet anyone from the villages nearby. Kappan comes. He is always ready to help. Why will we not vote for him?” asked Vidya.

After his speech, as he made way to a nearby hotel for a regular Kerala lunch of rice, fish curry, avial and pullissery, Gandhi stopped for pictures and smiles. The crowd had jammed the automatic doors of the vehicle that they could no longer shut it. Travelling with open doors made it easier for the crowds to stop the car and greet him.

It was after his lunch, while he was on his way to Piravom that he stopped the car at Uzhavoor for two grandmothers -- 73-year-old Annamma and her 86-year-old mother Aleykuttiamma. They said they had ensured the victory of all the Congress candidates from the area and Gandhi floored them by saying that they did not look a day over 55. It drew giggles and laughter from both of them. When they said that they are now ready to die after having seen him, Gandhi forbade them from saying so. He said he wanted to see them looking younger the next time he came to Kottayam. They wanted him to convey their regards to his mother Sonia Gandhi.

After the picture-perfect moment with the grandmothers, as his convoy was moving, Gandhi stopped the car when he saw a group of children in Karate uniform. He stepped out to their happiness and asked them to show him their moves. An older boy, who had a black belt, showed him a few strikes and chops. Then he enquired of the children if they enjoyed learning karate. When he heard their answer in the affirmative, he bade them goodbye.

Soon after he resumed his journey, he stopped his car to greet a few nuns and children waiting with flowers for him. He slowed down several times near nuns who were standing all along the route. On the way to Piravom, he slowed down his vehicle to pay respects at his father Rajiv Gandhi’s statue at Rajiv Square.

After a quick speech announcing the Nyay scheme at Piravom, he made his way to Kolencherry where his supporters had organised a big reception even though it was meant to be a corner meeting. Patiently listen to the leaders at Kolencherry, Gandhi strongly attacked the Left and the LDF again. It was what the crowds wanted to hear.

“The Communists want to always evoke Karl Marx and yet they misunderstand him too. The Communists do not understand the economy, otherwise they would have kickstarted it by now. For the economy to begin, money has to be put in the hands of people. UDF promises to do that with the NYAY scheme. We will put Rs 6,000 into the hands of every poor family,” asserted Gandhi. The crowds were enthused by the speech.

It was at the next stop that the crowds went wild as soon as they saw Gandhi’s cavalcade approaching. At Muvatupuzha, where the crowds had been waiting since 5.30pm, Gandhi reached only by 7.30 pm. This did not dampen their spirits and instead gave him a rousing welcome. It was here that he poked fun at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new appearance.

“You cannot fool people all the time. Hence Modi trying to distract people with his new look for Bengal elections. He thought that by keeping a beard, he would remind people about Rabindranath Tagore. This is because he is hollow, he has no substance. He does not know how to start the floundering economy. We know exactly how to. The best way to do so is to put money in the hands of the people. We will do so first in Kerala and then all over the country,” promised Gandhi.

After explaining how the UDF would kick-start the economy and equated LDF and RSS with each other because of their affinity for violence, Rahul Gandhi ended his speech. He had realised he was running late and still had Perumbavoor and Angamaly to go to before 10 pm.

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Published: 25 Mar 2021, 5:11 PM