| The plastic chairs and wooden table at Hotel Miranda where Rahul had tea and snacks. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, Dec. 10: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had his “aam aadmi (common man)” moment today, when he stopped at a roadside stall for tea and pakoras on his way back to the airport after taking part in a public rally here.
Much to the consternation of his security personnel, Rahul sampled tea at the dingy stall sitting on a plastic chair near the Iskcon temple, which is about 6km from the state capital.
“Rahul asked his driver to stop on seeing the tea stall and he went straight to it with his security guards following him. We all were taken completely by surprise,” a Congress leader who witnessed the scene told The Telegraph.
Rahul’s security included personnel from the Special Protection Group, in addition to state armed forces who lined Airport Road.
Five customers were present when Rahul walked into the shop named Miranda Hotel.
The owner, Lourembam Doleshore Singh, said Rahul’s visit was like a dream come true. “I don’t know what to say. My happiness is endless,” he said.
“I found him (Rahul) standing on the verandah of my hotel as someone came to us asking if we have some local delicacies. We asked Rahul if he wanted coffee. He said no and asked for tea and besan pakoras. We provided him a plate of pakora,” the owner told this correspondent.
Doleshore Singh told Rahul the tea and snacks cost Rs 70 but Rahul handed him Rs 200 with a “thank you”. Rahul spent about 10 minutes at the hotel “enjoying” his tea and admiring the surroundings.
Later, he also sampled a packet of Myanmarese plum pickle, which comprised four pieces.
Rahul had given a miss to the food and snacks arranged by the state government and Manipur Congress leaders at the venue of the public address.
Chief minister Ibobi Singh and his deputy Gaikhangam had already reached the airport by then. “Rahul later said he stopped at the stall and had tea as he wanted to feel the life of a common man in Manipur. This shows that our leader considers himself a common man and is concerned about the welfare of the poor people,” Gaikhangam said.
At the rally, Rahul spoke about how only 15 per cent of the money from welfare schemes reached the targeted people.
Police said militants had exploded two powerful improvised explosive devices last month in which two army personnel and three civilians were wounded along the stretch. The tea stall is barely half-a-km away from the site of the blasts.
Yesterday, too, militants had exploded a bomb fitted in a van at Koubrou Leikha in Senapati district, injuring two BSF personnel.