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Rahul listens & spouts new-age ahimsa

- COUNTLESS HANDSHAKES, BUT HEMANT MIA

Ranchi, Feb. 7: In February 2012, Rahul Gandhi had torn a piece of paper with election promises of opponents at a Uttar Pradesh rally before the state Assembly polls, earning a jibe from Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav on anger not being good for health.

Two years later, Rahul Gandhi, who came to Jharkhand on a “suggestion-seeking” visit that was far low-key than BJP prime minister nominee Narendra Modi’s Vijay Sankalp rally in Ranchi five weeks ago, said he believed in shanti se kranti.

During a closed-door interaction with minority communities at a capital hotel this evening, Rahul said: “I am opposed to the politics of anger. It can’t work in a country like India. Mahatma Gandhi was able to throw British out of the country only through his compassionate behaviour.”

“Congress shanti se kranti laane me vishwas karti hai (Congress believes in bringing revolution peacefully),” he said, implying to communal forces but not naming Modi or the BJP and its allies.

At the same time, yesterday’s firebrand has perhaps learnt the art of talking tough while staying soft-spoken.

At a morning meeting with tribal women, he criticised Jharkhand government for not implementing Panchayati Raj institutions fully, despite the fact that Congress was a part of the state’s ruling coalition.

In the evening, at the meeting with minorities, Rahul said why he was here.

“Hindustan ka manifesto Hindustan se hi pooch kar banaya jayega. Mere liye aap sabhi Hindustani ho,” he said, referring to the party’s proposed national manifesto before Lok Sabha polls.

Over an hour-long interaction, Rahul heard out various minority issues — a representative of Bengalis said they were “26 per cent of the state’s population but politically and linguistically sidelined”, Sikhs wanted Gurmukhi to be included in Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) and Muslims wanted more jobs.

“We have no representation in the state minority commission,” said a Bengali representative. “Traditionally, the Bengalis here have supported the Congress. T.K. Ghosh had represented Ranchi parliamentary seat seven times. But, now Bengali votes have become scattered.”

Besides Gurmukhi in TET, the Sikhs also demanded more “political space” and subsidies to enable the poorer members of the community to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

Muslim representatives added their support should not be “taken for granted”.

A representative, expressing anger at Congress minister of state HRD Geetashree Oraon, said: “Madarsa teachers don’t get paid and Muslim youths have no job opportunities in the state.”

He praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an honest person whose tenure would be remembered for bringing legislation that “changed political discourse” and reeled off achievements of the Congress-led UPA “Right to Information, Right to Food, Anti-Corruption Bill, MGNREGS”.

During an informal media interaction for another hour, a relaxed Rahul discussed his vision to ensure more democratic and transparent practices within the Congress, before leaving for Delhi by a special flight in the evening.

But whether Rahul came, saw and conquered Jharkhand was uncertain.

For starters, chief minister Hemant Soren did not meet Rahul, perhaps tired of being perceived as a cog in the wheel of the national party’s regional agenda in a poll year.

Chief minister apart, even a section of people were left smarting when his road show proved to be a blink-and-you-miss-it affair.

In the afternoon, around 600-700 residents and local party workers who thronged Ormanjhi on the Ranchi-Hazaribagh highway (NH-33), were disappointed when Rahul left in a flash after alighting from his chopper at a school. “What kind of a road show was this? Narendra Modi’s rally was better,” said Sunil Kumar Mahto.

Mahto, who came from a village near Ormanjhi, claimed to have attended Modi’s Vijay Sankalp rally on December 29.

“We could see and hear Narendra,” the villager said with easy familiarity.

His friend Ram Lohia said no politician can afford to ignore Ormanjhi.

He had a point.

Ormanjhi is considered to be the land of two great tribal freedom fighters — 1857 freedom uprising hero Raja Tikait Umrao Singh who hailed from Khatangavillage and Shahid Shekh Bhikari who belonged to Lotwa Kudia village.

Ironically, the crucial areas with historical importance continue to remain devoid of proper development due to apathy.

A couple of years ago, the state government launched a scheme to develop 100 model villages, including the two historical ones of Ormanjhi.

A local leader said: “The progress of those is still anybody’s guess here. Rahulji should have spoken to the people here to get a feel of what tribals want. Officials indulge in frequent absenteeism at Ormanjhi block office, a crucial link between district collectorate and block, hampering development work,” he said.

After Rahul’s flight left for Delhi, The Telegraph called on JMM and Congress leaders to gauge the mood in each.

Hemant, in Ranchi all through the day, took part in a workshop organised by the state industry department at Hotwar and held meetings with top government officials in State Sentence Review Board at Project Building.

Probably, the JMM was tired of hearing about Congress leader and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh being dubbed as “super CM”. Adding recent insult to injury, Sudhir Mahto’s widow Sabita was forced to withdraw candidature for Rajya Sabha polls.