The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rahul set for UP plunge

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Come February, Rahul Gandhi might jump into the Uttar Pradesh battleground to connect with the masses and kickstart the groundwork for the Assembly elections due next January. But it could be a long haul for the first-time MP.

Uttar Pradesh Congress sources said for starters, Rahul will not address public meetings or even “nukkad” (street corner) gatherings but go on “padyatras” all the over the state to rev up the party organisation and “meet the aam log (common people).

If mega events are planned for the Amethi MP right away, the sources said, he would not get a chance to do what he said in his speech at the just-concluded Hyderabad plenary: “Plunge into the battlefield in the heart of India, go to its villages, towns, cities, schools and universities and build links with the people.”

The state Congress has tentatively decided that Rahul must move out of the Nehru-Gandhi pocket borough of Amethi-Sultanpur-Rae Bareli and cover one or more districts in every part of the state.

The sources said the Congress still has units in every district and taluka of the state but they lie “dormant”.

Proof of this was evident in the last Lok Sabha polls where, despite Rahul’s high-profile campaign, the Congress won just nine seats, one less than the BJP.

The party also failed to win the ensuing by-elections and its candidates lost their deposits in many places. The last nail in the coffin was the failure to win a single seat in the panchayat elections, including in Rae Bareli and Amethi, which have sent Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to the Lok Sabha.

In his plenary speech, Rahul had indicated that it was time the Congress stopped blaming “casteist” and “religious” parties for its debacles. Rather, the time had come to square up with the reality that “we have failed to live up to people’s expectations, we have stopped fighting for their causes and we have lost the ability to link the party organisation with our workers and people”.

State Congress representatives interpreted Rahul’s words to mean the party could go on the long-overdue offensive against the Mulayam Singh Yadav government.

“When Rahul drew a distinction between netas (power-brokers) and true grassroots leaders, he said something profound. It was a comment against Mulayam who is popularly called netaji,” said a state legislator.

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