M A I N   N E W S

Rahul hops onto Mumbai trains to snub Shiv Sena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 5
Unfazed by the Shiv Sena’s threat to disrupt his itinerary in Mumbai, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi today addressed students at a suburban hall, mingled with residents of a slum and changed commuter trains like scores of residents of this metropolis.

Sheer muscle deployed by the administration and some quick thinking ensured that the Shiv Sena’s plans to show black flags at Rahul Gandhi and possibly further invasive protests during the day were thwarted.

While the Shiv Sena played cat and mouse games with the police along the bylanes leading from the Mumbai airport to the Bhaidas Hall in suburban Vile Parle, Gandhi was brought to the venue from a different location -- the Juhu helipad.

Since Thursday evening, scores of Sena cadres were held in preventive custody as a precautionary measure. They, however, managed to display black flags and burn an effigy of Gandhi more than 3 km away from the venue where he addressed Mumbai college students.

Undaunted Gandhi chose to reach his next destination, the slums of Ramabai Nagar in the suburb of Ghatkopar, by local train. From Vile Parle, Gandhi’s cavalcade drove to Andheri railway station on the Western Railway line but not before he halted at an ATM to withdraw cash. In full media glare, Gandhi purchased tickets for Ghatkopar in the Central Railway line and boarded a train to Dadar terminus where he changed trains to take a Kalyan-bound train to reach his destination four stations away.

From Ghatkopar railway station, Gandhi reached Ramabai Nagar by road. His programme there kicked off with the young leader garlanding the statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Incidentally, Vile Parle and Ghatkopar are strongholds of the Shiv Sena and the police had cracked down on the party’s activists and detained scores of them as a precautionary measure.

Gandhi utilised the twin events to launch an attack on the Shiv Sena. At both the venues, Gandhi embarked on a high-pitched exercise to mobilise youth to join the Congress. “There are two kinds of leaders in the country, one who divide and rule and the other who take everyone along to fulfill the objective of taking everybody forward. The Congress stands for a united India,” Gandhi told students at Bhaidas Hall.

According to the Youth Congress, more than one thousand students were present at the venue where Gandhi urged them to join the Congress party. “Join politics and the Congress party if you want to make a difference. Some people are trying to divert your attention from real issues, but you have to stay focused,” Gandhi was reported as saying.

In the hour-long interaction, Gandhi fielded questions from students. At one point he noted that he did not have roots in any particular state. “My great-grandfather was born in Allahabad, but he had his origins in Jammu and Kashmir. I live in Delhi. Where should I say I belong to? I know only one thing -- that I am an Indian and I belong to India,” Rahul said.

Like during his visits in other parts of the country, Gandhi said he was interested in inducting people from non-political background into the Congress. After interacting with the residents of the Ramabai Nagar colony, Gandhi left for Puducherry by helicopter.

At the end of the day, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray insisted that his party workers had indeed proved a point against Rahul Gandhi. “We saw how people from outside come to Mumbai and treat it as an ATM before returning home,” Thackeray said.

Rahul ka Laxman!

Maharashtra's Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe, who shares responsibility for the state's security with his boss RR Patil of the Nationalist Congress Party, had another task in store for him — guarding Rahul Gandhi's slippers. Bagwe was seen carrying Rahul's slippers while the Congress party's PM-in-waiting strode up a podium to garland the statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar in Ghatkopar's Ramabai Nagar. The Shiv Sena leaders in the area were seen sniggering at Bagwe and likened him to Laxman in the Ramayana who guarded his brother Ram's shoes.



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