Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow in Sultanpur Majra — a traditional Congress bastion and a reserved Assembly — was a last-minute fixture but when he reached there in the afternoon, the roads were packed with supporters, raising Congress slogans and waving the party’s flag.
The party’s decision to organise the roadshow at the eleventh hour was motivated by the need to consolidate the party’s Dalit seats.
Initially, Rahul was scheduled to attend another roadshow at Okhla, but that was cancelled. While party leaders described the move as their ace in the hole, some admitted that it might just be too late to revive the Congress’s chances in Delhi.
As the roadshow began, it was difficult to imagine that this was the same Congress that was battling to retain its relevance in Delhi. Flowers petals rained down, balconies were lined with cheering supporters and people trickled out on to the main road, as Rahul’s cavalcade inched forward.
Accompanying him was four-time sitting MLA Jai Kishen, AICC general secretary in-charge of Delhi P C Chacko and party president Arvinder Singh Lovely. Since it’s conception in 1993, the Congress has never lost from the seat.
But despite the party’s success in the Assembly, senior AICC leaders expressed surprise at the turnout. “Workers had little time to tell people about the rally. But people still came out in huge numbers,” a leader said. But others credited it to Jai Kishen’s immense popularity with the local Dalit population. “It’s only because of someone like Kishen that someone like Rahul has come here. Otherwise who cares for us Valmikis,” Ram Kumar, who runs a small meat shop in the area, said.
Rahul got out of his car and went to meet people. Within minutes, he was surrounded by supporters who wanted to shake his hand. But despite the incredible response of the roadshow, the inroads made by AAP in the Assembly were all too clearly visible. Amidst the many faces peering curiously at Rahul’s cavalcade, were also a number of people donning the characteristic AAP-topi.