Kerala embraces Rahul Gandhi on his first visit after election results were declared
What began as a sombre thanksgiving for electing the Congress President to the Lok Sabha eventually turned into a tumultuous show of support, affection and solidarity that energised the party
This was not how Congress president Rahul Gandhi was expected to reach Wayanad after the General Election. It was believed that the Congress would have a fighting chance at forming the government at the Centre, a chance to counter the divisiveness promoted by the BJP. A hope that the country would not be bled by a thousand cuts. It wasn’t to be.
But, it didn’t eventually matter in his constituency either. Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to arrive in Wayanad at Kalikavu on June 7. And when he arrived in Kalikavu, it was not the Rahul Gandhi they had seen before the election. A man who then seemed to be the only one ready to take on the RSS, the BJP and Narendra Modi. But, the man who arrived was one on whose face, the weight of the organisation weighed, the weight of the loss weighed.
But, for people who stood waiting to see him, meet him, it didn’t matter. They felt his loss as much as their own. They turned up in numbers to support him and to show him that an alternative is possible and much needed.
In Kalikavu, on the first day, he whole-heartedly thanked the people who stood there waiting for him in the afternoon sun. There weren’t any of the usual overtures against the government. It was a man who felt he had let his people down. Here, Rahul Gandhi thanked his constituency for electing him. He didn’t seem like he wanted to say anything more. “One could see that there was melancholy written all over his face and mannerisms,” points out Abid Hussain, a businessman.
“There were a number of people, but compared to the rest of three days, one can say, it was lukewarm. Kalikavu is surrounded by areas from where road transport is not regular and the Congress, which has no funds, did not organise any vehicles to bring in people,” said Jamal, an advocate and social worker who was present at the road show.
His roadshow on June 7 continued in Malappuram district to Nilambur, then Edavanna and Areekode. At each new place, the crowd kept swelling. It was in Areekode that changed the face of the rally for the Congress president. “Just before Rahul Gandhi’s arrival, it rained heavily, and it was expected to be a washout. But, the mothers with their babies, fathers with their sons on their shoulders stood braving the rain. Instead, the crowd kept swelling and by the time Rahul Gandhi reached the place, chants of ‘Rahul, Rahul’ filled the air. It didn’t matter to those standing that he had lost the nation, all they seemed to want to say was that they were with the Congress president – through his losses and gains’. It was an energiser for the party and for Rahul Gandhi,” explains Purushottaman Kurup, a local resident.
The next day, he was scheduled to go to Kalpetta. As Rahul Gandhi has not been sworn in, he is only an MP-designate, which means he has no office yet in the constituency. But, all MPs get a cabin at the Kalpetta civil station. Rahul Gandhi sat there all morning on June 8 meeting several people, groups, including from the Welfare Party, Adivasi organisations, farmers.
“Several people came to meet him. He got more than 27 petitions and he was there for more than two hours. Among those who came were people who had lost their homes in the flood, the CPI(M) Kalpetta MLA CK Saseendran, the local bishop and several others,” said Anil Kumar, KPCC general secretary.
“Hardly any MP has sat amongst the people and listened to their woes. Here the main issues are famers’ suicides, education of Adivasis and encroachment of land. One of the problems here is that the Bandipur forest is closed at night for travel. This severely affects people here as they regularly travel to Mysore. I understand that it was done to protect wildlife, but a solution has to be found for this issue. Simply shutting it is not the way. There is no railway station here either. We are not sure if Rahul Gandhi can interfere in these issues, but we hope some of these will be considered,” explains Hussain.
And then, he moved to Kambalakkad, Mananthavady, Pulpally and Sultan Bathery. “Several people had come on the second day too to show their solidarity with him. On the second day, when he began the rally, there was a marked difference from the man who was seen at Kalpetta. He walked into tea stalls and interacted with people. Everyone felt that he was one of them. He showed patience that is not easily seen among politicians,” said a journalist who did not want to be named.
“How many speak of love and courage in an age where violence is celebrated,” asked the journalist.
It was the Mananthavady rally that was the highlight of the second day where people thronged the roads, vehicles had to be stopped as several attempted to catch a glimpse of him. “In Mananthavady, the reception was scheduled at Gandhi Park, but the Congress president couldn’t even enter it because of the crowd. He addressed the crowd from near the park. There were two children too who were running beside his vehicle and Rahul Gandhi stopped to meet them as well,” highlighted Kumar.
“In Bathery too, there were people in large numbers. Here, the BJP hardly has any presence and that is a boon. Amongst the people queuing up were those who voted and didn’t vote for him. It was from Sultan Bathery that Rahul Gandhi got more than 80,000 votes lead. That is no easy feat. In Bathery, we saw that he was becoming himself and began to attack the BJP government. He said, the government is with the BJP and Modi, institutions are with them, so are the media and corporates but he had truth on his side. Rahul said he knows it, the people knew it and even those in the government knew on whose side truth was,” contended Balakrishnan Marar, a resident who had gone for the Sultan Bathery rally.
If Areecode showed what Rahul Gandhi meant for its citizens, Engapuzha in Kozhikode cemented it. Moved by the surge of people, Rahul Gandhi came to his own. He dismissed PM Narendra Modi’s vacuous claims that Kerala was his as much as Varanasi. The Prime Minister had decided to visit the Guruvayoor temple in Kerala while Rahul Gandhi was in Wayanad in an attempt to spin the narrative around himself.
“Rahul Gandhi accused the Prime Minister of meting out step-motherly treatment to states where the BJP is not in power. He said that the PM will not consider Kerala the way he considers Uttar Pradesh, mostly because the Left is in power in Kerala. He added that he wasn’t expecting any cooperation from the Prime Minister and the BJP-led government at the Centre for the development of Wayanad and the state,” said Kumar.
Attacking the RSS, Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP and Modi are unlikely to cooperate because they were blinded by hatred. “We will fight that and I promise you that we will not be ruled by Nagpur,” asserted Gandhi.
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