Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas arrives for his rally in Amethi on Sunday. (PTI) J.P. Yadav
Amethi, Jan. 12: Congress supporters showed black flags and shouted “Kumar Vishwas go back” while the BJP set up “corruption-free NaMo tea stalls” as the Aam Aadmi Party held its first public meeting in the Gandhi family bastion of Amethi.
In terms of crowd strength, the rally at Amethi’s Ramlila ground was hardly enthusiastic, but the protests generated a buzz for Kumar Vishwas, who has declared he would take on Rahul Gandhi in the seat. Seeing the protests, Vishwas tried to turn it to his advantage by delivering Bollywood-style dialogues.
“Congress ke logon. Andon, dando aur gundon se hum darne wale nahi hai… Hum mare ya jiyen, Amethi se jaane wale nahin hain,” (I will not be scared away by eggs, sticks and goons. Whether I live or die, I will not leave Amethi), Vishwas, a populist Hindi poet, declared drawing huge cheer from the crowds.
In the caste-dominated state, Vishwas pitched himself as a “Brahmin” who cannot change his stand. He arrived not like a commoner but in typical heartland style, in a cavalcade of over 50 cars.
Vishwas, who drove the over-130km distance from Lucknow to Amethi, started facing protests the moment his cavalcade entered Amethi’s boundary. At Jagdispur market, 50km before Amethi, he faced the first protest. People, claiming to be ordinary citizens, hurled eggs, tomatoes and black paint at Vishwas, to protest against his alleged anti-Muslim poetry. Yesterday, a Muslim youth had hurled an egg during Vishwas’ press conference in Lucknow on the same issue. At the rally, Vishwas apologised. “I apologise if I have hurt the religious sentiments. Allah forgives those who acknowledge their mistake and apologise,” he said.
The second protest was at Gauriganj, 12km before Amethi. People holding Congress flags raised slogans of “Kumar Vishwas wapas jao” (Kumar Vishwas go back). AAP leaders claimed even stones were hurled at a bus carrying party supporters.
In Amethi, Congress activists burnt the “broom”, AAP’s election symbol, and flags containing pictures of Vishwas and shouted “Kumar Vishwas hai hai”. They said Vishwas was an outsider.
Protests were witnessed at the rally too. Some youths stood in the crowd and waved black flags as Vishwas spoke. Close to the rally venue, a motley group of youths wearing Rahul Gandhi caps continued to protest from a roof top. They distributed pamphlets with photographs of AAP leaders allegedly disgracing the national flag.
The BJP, the principal opponent to the Congress, chose to pitch their prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi in the charged political atmosphere. Just beside the Ramlila ground rally venue, the party set up two tea stalls and sold what they claimed was “bhrastachar mukt chai”. Narendra Modi posters were put up and local leaders said it was part of their “mission 272 (Lok Sabha seats)” for Modi in 2014.
“From 7am till now (3.30pm) we have served this corruption-free tea to over 1,400 people. People who took this tea promised to make Narendra Modi the prime minister,” said Vishuv Mishra, a local BJP leader.