Lucknow, Aug. 7: Akhilesh Yadav today sprung a surprise visit to a village in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Rae Bareli, where he spent time chatting to villagers and school children, and even ate the midday meal with the kids.
This is the first time the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has undertaken such a visit since taking charge in March last year. Coming amid the controversy over IAS officer Durga Shakti Rampal’s suspension, it has raised eyebrows among rival leaders.
Observers said the visit recalled the many trips Rahul Gandhi had undertaken to the homes of Dalits in 2008, during which the Congress vice-president would hear out their problems and have dinner with them. Rahul’s visits had begun in the run-up to the 2009 general election and continued till 2010.
This morning, Akhilesh set out for Raiyan village in Banchrawa block of Rae Bareli, 50 km from here, around 8.30. He stayed on till 2.45pm, official sources said.
Ram Lal Akela, the Samajwadi Party MLA representing Banchrawa, said Akhilesh asked six of his security personnel to step aside and let the people and students speak to him directly.
“He inspected how Lohia welfare schemes were being implemented in Raiyan village, checked the quality of midday meals at Raiyan Junior School, visited a second school where the midday meal was being cooked, checked its quality and ate with the children,” Akela said.
Akhilesh also asked the school children to write the spellings of a few words and pronounce them, a villager said.
“The chief minister voiced concern for the condition of roads and deplored the non-existence of infrastructure, such as hand-pumps and health centres,” Satish Pradhan, a resident of Raiyan village, said over phone.
He said Akhilesh did not allow local politicians or officials to mill around him as he interacted with the people. The chief minister sat on a chaupal (platform where meetings are held) for half-an-hour and spoke to the villagers about their problems, especially about the prices of crops, he added.
Akela said the chief minister announced that Banchrawa would soon be brought under the municipality, a stadium would be built, and a 10km kuccha road connecting the village with Banchrawa town would be converted to a metalled two-way connector.
Banchrawa, a semi-rural Assembly segment, was represented by the Congress till recently but was snatched by the Samajwadi Party last year.
Akhilesh’s visit has come four days after Sonia wrote to the Prime Minister in support of suspended IAS officer Nagpal. Some Congress leaders said he appeared to be diverting attention from the issue.