The Congress party is at its lowest point in terms of the political authority in the country since Independence. In its attempt to regain some of its past lustre, the trump card it keeps playing up is sending its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. So Gandhi is usually in any region of the country that undergoes a national crises. While Gandhi has been criticised on several occasions for lacking attributes necessary for political efficiency, he definitely does not miss an opportunity to fly off to any region mourning under some kind of natural or man-made calamity.
At present, the heir apparent of the Gandhis is in Una, Gujarat to meet with the family of the Dalits who had been publicly flogged by self proclaimed cow protectors. The issue has snowballed into a state-wide crisis with protests erupting across the state. He is not the only national leader to schedule a visit to Gujarat now, as Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal is also headed there.
Below are some of the instances in the past few years when Rahul Gandhi made his presence felt in the midst of a national upheaval.
Farmer suicides in Maharashtra: In 2008 Gandhi visited Vidarbha in Maharashtra which had witnessed an intense spate of farmer suicides that year. The focal point of his trip, however, was when he visited a widow, Kalavati Bandurkar at her mud hut. Kalavati’s husband had died in 2005 and she was struggling under acute poverty as she strove to bring up a family of seven daughters and two sons. Gandhi had been so stirred up after his visit that he decided to include the widow’s plight in his speech at the Lok Sabha. Rahul’s visit had made Kalavati the face of the Maharashtra agrarian crises .In April this year, Kalavati appealed to Gandhi to help her sons earn a livelihood.
Drought in Maharashtra: In April 2012, Gandhi made a two-day trip to drought-hit Satara district in Maharashtra along with state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. During his stay he spoke to villagers about water scarcity in the village and also visited a fodder depot at Pangri. He also met up with party activists in the state to discuss what needed to be done in the state.
Muzaffarnagar riots: In the months of August-September in 2013,Uttar Pradesh was mired in violence as communal riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts. Thousands were left homeless and are still living in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. In December that year, Gandhi paid a visit to the relief camps there and appealed to the state’s chief minister to improve conditions. However, his visit was also met with black flag protests against his statement regarding Pakistan intelligence agency being in touch with Muslim youths in Muzaffarnagar.
Tamil Nadu and Puducherry floods: In December 2015, when Tamil Nadu and Puducherry were under flood waters, Rahul Gandhi flew down to the water logged regions. He interacted with the affected citizens there and distributed relief supplies. He was the first national leader from any party to visit Puducherry when it was torn by the torrential rain.
Rohit Vemula suicide: Gandhi visited the Hyderabad Central University campus in January this year, after Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide and protests broke out in the campus. Supporting the view that the administration had created conditions for the suicide, he attacked university’s vice-chancellor Prof. Appa Rao and ‘a minister in New Delhi’.
JNU protests: Soon after the controversy over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the Jawaharlal Nehru university was caught in the midst of huge protests when its student union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested for alleged anti-national slogans. Rahul Gandhi visited the campus a day after the arrest and criticised the NDA government for ‘suppressing students voices’ and for ‘bullying’ the university. He also extolled the institution for upholding free speech.
Kolkata flyover collapse: When in April this year, Kolkata was mourning the death of those crushed under the collapse of a flyover, Gandhi paid a visit to the victims in the hospital. He made a statement to the reporters that it was a tragic moment and that he did not wish to politicise the issue.
Kerala temple fire: Kerala saw one of its worst temple fire incidents when the Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam, went up in flames in April this year, killing over 100 people and injuring around 380. Rahul Gandhi along with senior Congress leader A K Antony and state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala visited the site and enquired about the incident. He later visited the victims in the hospital.