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Rajiv fumed, Rahul wiser

Hyderabad, Oct. 22: Rahul Gandhi was physically chased by a Congress MP outside Hyderabad airport yesterday ' but he refused to repeat his father’s mistake.

Mobbed by partymen at the same venue 23 years ago, Rajiv Gandhi had lost his temper and hollered at the state’s Congress chief minister ' and the party had lost Andhra Pradesh.

What made Rajiv, a Congress general secretary in 1982, see red was that T. Anjaiah had rushed to the airport to greet him with a jostling crowd of supporters even though he was on a “private” visit.

The more the uncomprehending chief minister fawned on him, the angrier Rajiv got, finally calling him a “buffoon”. N.T. Rama Rao’s Telugu Desam immediately construed this as an “insult to the state”, coined a slogan of “Telugu atmagowram (self-respect)”, and stormed to power a few months later.

But Rahul ' whose outspokenness about law and order in Bihar had embarrassed the Congress in the run-up to the ongoing Assembly polls ' held his tongue.

As the Amethi MP landed at Begumpet airport on Friday on a two-day visit ' invited, like Rajiv had been, by an NGO ' the high command had sent out a message to state Congress leaders to keep out of his way.

Yet, when several party leaders tried to gatecrash into the VIP lounge, Rahul remained calm, letting his SPG guards shoo them away.

But Secunderabad MP Anjan Kumar Yadav, who came with his son Anil Kumar, was not so easily discouraged. Pushed back inside the airport by the SPG, he and his son gave chase on foot as the Amethi MP’s car was leaving the car park.

Aghast, Rahul stopped the car and met the MP, accepted a khandua (a khadi cloth bearing the Congress colours) from him, but did not utter a word.

For the rest of the trip, Congressmen mostly left him alone, with chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy confining himself to a phone call yesterday and a lunch meeting today.

In the evening, the young MP, wearing a bush shirt and jeans, went unrecognised as he and his plainclothes security sat among ordinary customers at Paradise restaurant, enjoying a meal of mutton biryani with a side dish of chicken. By the time a waiter blew his cover, Rahul and his escorts had finished their cup of Suleiman chai and left.

Earlier, Rahul visited two villages in Ranga Reddy district to see for himself how the micro-finance scheme of an NGO ' Swayam Krushi Samstha ' was working. He spent over two hours in Bandasomaram, about 45 km from here, where he surprised all by opting to sit on the floor with the villagers and sharing their drinking water.

“He also had tea and biscuits with us,” said Padma, an activist.

The first-hand experience of how small loans can change the lives of the poor and the disadvantaged had strengthened his opposition to subsidies and freebies, Rahul said. “If they are able-bodied and healthy, there should be no free lunch at all. It is bad to give anything as dole.”

This morning, Rahul visited two villages in Nalgonda. “Rahul is a patient listener and very articulate,” said another activist.

After the lunch with the chief minister, where several young achievers from the state had been invited, Rahul left for Delhi.

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