Twenty-three days,89 public meetings spread over 46 districts and three road-shows later,AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi,who has been electioneering in UP since January 31,has decided to continue it until March 1. It will be the last day of campaigning for the seventh and final phase of polling,to be held on March 3. That will make it 31 days at a stretch.
Those working closely with him said Rahul Gandhi decided to take up the challenge after the remark by Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on January 28 that Rahul Gandhi would be blamed if the Congress failed to do well in Uttar Pradesh.
From November 2011 to January 2012-end,Rahul Gandhi had never spent more than five days at a stretch in UP. Also,after every visit,he took a break of a few days. But,after Sharad Pawars remark,he has been continuously campaigning since January 31. It is a challenge that he has happily taken, said a party leader.
He is addressing an average of four public meetings daily and trying to touch every constituency. The original plan was that he would visit only those constituencies where the Congress had a reasonable chance of winning.
Rahul has taken up the challenge and when he says that he is not bothered about the results,he means it because all of us are working with one motive,that is to create a base in UP. Those who are performing stay and non-performers are immediately replaced, said a Congressman involved in the election management.
According to this leader,Rahul Gandhis message is clear: We have to be present everywhere,no matter what the results. It is better to face the results after working hard than not working at all.
Every day,Rahul Gandhi takes off from Delhi between 9am and 10am and flies to Lucknow or some other place which has an airport. Next,he takes a helicopter. His first public meeting starts around noon and his last public meeting ends around 5pm. Usually,he is back in Delhi around 8.00 pm.
In the last 23 days,Rahul Gandhi made only three night stays in UP. He also held three roadshows,one in Sultanpur with Priyanka Gandhi on February 12,the second in Lucknow on February 16 and the third in Kanpur on February 20. Also,he took only three breaks,all on Fridays.
During the day,Rahul Gandhi doesnt take a lunch break; his lunch these days is dry vegetables,rolled in roti or paratha,and a piece or two of chocolate. He carries a few books which he reads whenever he has time,like in flight or while travelling by road. None of the books is fiction,sources said.
They said Rahul Gandhi is very curious about anything new that he comes across and freely talks to drivers,local leaders,villagers or the staff of the guest-house where he stays. He keeps asking questions,and listens patiently.
When Rahul Gandhi said that he has learnt a lot in last one month,it is a fact. Whenever he gets time,he gets down from his vehicle and talks about little issues with villagers. The villager may take time explaining,but he will not interrupt him, a party leader remarked.
Rahuls aide Kanishka Singh travels with him. Another aide,Baiju,arrives in advance for planning. Some members of his team record his speeches and then send these to Delhi for the media,a Congress leader said.