Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra paid a surprise private visit to Thrissur,Kerala,this afternoon to attend the wedding of the son of P Madhavan,a man who has been a part of the personal staff of the Nehru-Gandhi family for over two decades now.
The Kerala police and the Congress unit in the state were kept in the dark about the trip. It was a secret visit,and we were not informed, Thrissur Superintendent of Police M P Dinesh said. But the state police provided the minimum requirements of security quickly, he added.
Rahul and Priyanka arrived at Kochi International Airport by a special aircraft and drove the 40-odd kilometres to Thrissur in a tourist taxi. A police pilot vehicle accompanied them. By the time the Gandhi siblings reached Thrissur,the administration had managed to also position a fire tender and an ambulance as part of the security trappings at the wedding venue.
Madhavans son,Deepak,is a management graduate and works for a private firm in Delhi. His bride,Ashwathi,hails from Malappuram district,and is a qualified ayurveda doctor.
Madhavan,a central government employee,has been a part of the Nehru-Gandhi family establishment since the 1980s,when he was employed in the Home Ministry,and has seen Rahul and Priyanka from the time they were very young. Madhavan functions from 10 Janpath,but is also said to be one of Rahuls non-political advisers.
Madhavan was introduced to the family by Vincent George,personal assistant to Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. He is believed to enjoy the complete trust of the family,and is said to be involved in everything from deciding appointments to vetting the reports of Congress office-bearers.
Less than 100 guests were present when Rahul and Priyanka walked in at around 1 pm. They stepped on to the podium and blessed the bride and bridegroom. After a photo session,brother and sister had lunch with the newly-wed couple in a room attached to the wedding hall. They left for the airport after spending about an hour at the venue.
Several Congress leaders had been invited for the wedding,but none of them was present when Rahul and Priyanka arrived. Hearing the news,some three dozen local Youth Congress workers rushed to the venue and raised slogans in support of Rahul.
We were not invited. But on hearing that Rahul had come,we went there. Only local Youth Congress and Congress leaders were present, said Youth Congress state general secretary John Daniel,a native of Thrissur,who managed a handshake with Rahul.
As local reporters and photographers jostled to get close to Rahul and Priyanka,the cameraman of a local TV channel reportedly got into a scuffle with a member of the security entourage. T K Vasu,Thrissur district secretary of the DYFI,the CPM-affiliated youth organisation,issued a statement deploring Rahuls visit for publicity and the hardship it had caused the public.
(With DK Singh in New Delhi)