M A I N   N E W S

Rahul begins Punjab discovery
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Rahul Gandhi at the Golden Temple complex on Monday
Rahul Gandhi at the Golden Temple complex on Monday. — A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, September 22
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi started his three-day Punjab visit today. Following an ambitious programme of travelling across the length and breadth of the state, Rahul’s aim is to oversee the ongoing recruitment drive in the Youth Congress and evaluate the party’s prospects for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. Rahul wants to see the “real Punjab” during his “Discover India” programme and is hoping to win over the Punjabis “upset” with his family for Operation Bluestar.

The first day of his Punjab visit ranged from savouring the langar at the Golden Temple, amidst holy chants, to relishing “makki di roti” and “sarson da saag” at Baran village on the outskirts of Patiala. In Chandigarh, he saw a roadshow, brushed shoulders with businessmen at the PHD Chamber of Commerce and participated in a village fair at Patiala.

By starting his Punjab visit from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Rahul has made an attempt to apply balm to the hurt sentiments of the Sikhs who have nurtured a grudge against his family after his grandmother, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, ordered an attack on the Golden Temple in June, 1984.

Accompanying Rahul are senior Congress leaders Margaret Alva, the party in charge for Punjab, Indian Youth Congress chief Ashok Tanwar and former chief election commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh. Senior Punjab Congress leaders across the state have been assigned duties to be present in different areas when Rahul visits those areas. Interestingly, the otherwise fragmented Congress leadership is showing a united face to their future leader.

For security reasons, Rahul arrived in Amritsar early in the morning and paid obeisance at the Golden Temple and the Durgiana Mandir and then visited the Jallianwala Bagh. It was only after seeking blessings at the Golden Temple that he arrived at Mohali to begin the political tour of the state.

Over the next three days he will travel to 18 out of Punjab’s 20 districts, starting from Mohali in Ropar and going to Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Sangrur and Mansa.

Tomorrow he is scheduled to visit Bathinda, Muktsar, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Gurdaspur. On his last day in Punjab (Wednesday) he will participate in a Scheduled Caste (SC) convention and Girls’ Convention at Jalandhar and Gurdaspur before travelling to Nawanshahr, Kapurthala and Ludhiana.

After senior Punjab Congress leaders expressed security concerns, Rahul’s visit to a youth rally at Rampura Phul and Bathinda was cancelled. At most places, Rahul is receiving a rousing reception from Congress workers and members of the Youth Congress. Giving nightmares to security personnel, he is reportedly stopping impromptu to listen to the problems of the workers and assure them that the party is with them “as the Akalis unleash their political vendetta”

In Mohali, Rahul made a brief speech about how he enjoyed the kabbadi match played in true Punjabi spirit. In the evening, he took a detour off the Patiala-Sangrur highway near Nidampur to participate in the Gugga Marhi (snake worship) fair at Namadan village. He is expected to halt for the night near Bathinda after meeting workers at Sunam, Sangrur and Barnala.



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