DESPITE INITIAL trends showing that the Congress was leading in at least three states, the party office at 24, Akbar Road, wore a deserted look on Saturday morning. There were no supporters at the gates, no large screens, speakers, flags or placards. Senior leaders, too, remained absent from the party headquarters. Around 11 am, communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala arrived and told those present: “We are going to win three states and wrest two from the BJP.”
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A spokesperson said, “Rahul Gandhi cannot be blamed for this. BJP indulges in vote bank politics and the people of UP have chosen that over politics of development.”
“They are dream merchants and have sold dreams to people,” another spokesperson said. A little way down the road, as the sound of the celebrations at the BJP’s national headquarters resonated through most of the Lutyens’ area, the talk in the Congress canteen went something like this: “Punjab toh theek hai, UP bada masla tha. (Punjab is fine but UP was the bigger issue.)”
However, as the crescendo of BJP’s unprecedented majority rose over television channels, commotion outside the Congress headquarters caught everyone by surprise. Youth Congress members, bearing party flags and coloured powder, led the celebrations, chanting, “Ugta sooraj dhalti shaam, Rahul Gandhi tere naam.”
Meanwhile, outside the office, 36-year-old Durga Prasad from Loni (Ghaziabad), who has been selling Congress merchandise on Akbar Road since he was 19, counted the day’s sales.
“I have made Rs 400 since morning, which is more than most days. Bikri kam ho gayi hai (sales have dropped). I was hoping I would make a little more today.” Asked if he will go across to the other party’s office, he said, “I will only sell here. They have given me my livelihood.”