Feb. 1: The baton may or may not pass but the gun already has.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s son Raihan is not being groomed as a politician at age 13 but he has taken up a family tradition that is at least four generations old.
The schoolboy was yesterday spotted participating in Jaipur’s Maharaja Karni Singh Memorial air-pistol shooting competition.
He acquitted himself creditably with 282 out of 400 points in the sub-junior event though, unlike uncle Rahul Gandhi, he didn’t win a medal.
Rahul, who had inherited father Rajiv Gandhi’s passion for shooting, had won gold in the 1989 Delhi state championships, scoring 271 out of 300. Rahul had come fourth in the preceding winter’s national championships in New Delhi.
These accomplishments had helped Rahul gain admission to the history (honours) course at St. Stephen’s College, giving him an advantage of 10 per cent marks over general students. Rahul had scored 61 per cent in his senior secondary school exam.
Although Rahul did not stay long enough to complete his undergraduate degree from St. Stephen’s, his admission generated a controversy. A part of the Opposition and the media questioned the admission of the then Prime Minister’s son to one of the most sought after colleges in the country under the sports quota.
But the college defended its decision. Clement Rajkumar, then director of physical education at the college, said two footballers admitted along with Rahul under the quota had scored less than him.
“Raihan is showing the potential to turn into a good shooter,” said his Delhi-based coach Rajpal Singh, a former international pistol shooter who had trained Rajiv and Rahul too.
Raihan went to school in Delhi, where his parents live, before being admitted to Doon School, Dehradun, last year.
Rajpal turned a bit emotional recalling his association with Rajiv and Rahul. Rajiv had a gun licence and used to practise target shooting as a hobby. One of his prized possessions was a gun that belonged to his father Feroze Gandhi.
Priyanka too was spotted outside Jaipur’s Jagatpura shooting range yesterday but did not go in because of security reasons, Rajpal said. “But she kept enquiring about Raihan’s performance, calling me up frequently.”
Had Rahul continued with shooting, Rajpal said, he could have represented the country at international meets.
Deepti Singh, daughter of civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and Rahul’s fellow participant at many shooting competitions, echoed him.
Now in the thick of politics, Rahul continues to take an interest in cricket, football and fast two-wheelers. He is said to have bonded with India cricket captain M.S. Dhoni and actors John Abraham and Salman Khan over a common love of bikes.
Union sports minister Jitendra Singh’s son Manvendra and daughters Manvika and Janki too participated in the Jaipur competition. Jitendra is close to Rahul.
Manvendra scored 269 out of 400 while Janki ran up 301. Her elder sister Manvika scored 344 out of 400 in the junior girls’ category.