The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 26 , 2014
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When ‘sound-less’ Rahul discovered silence is golden in the most talkative city in the country

Calcutta, March 25: Rahul Gandhi today found a Brahmastra — silence — to take on the BJP’s Har, Har chant, Trinamul’s diatribe against dynasty and allegations of discrimination, and the CPM’s accusation of corruption in the UPA government.

He came, he saw, he waved, he mingled and finally, he left without addressing the gathering.

But no one in the 10,000-plus audience, who braved a late afternoon squall and heavy rain for over two hours at the Shahid Minar grounds in Calcutta, complained.

“As the weather played spoilsport, a rally was impossible at the venue. But still, he came and that was enough to lift the morale of our supporters,” state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said.

Rahul spent seven minutes at the venue, during which he hopped onto the dais twice to wave at the Congress workers. After coming off the dais for the first time, he walked swiftly towards the barricade, beyond which supporters were waiting with outstretched hands and shouting “Rahul, Rahul”.

“Look, he is running around and even shaking hands with people. I wish we were there,” said Shib Shankar Bose, who could not go near the barricade that encircled the dais.

As Rahul approached the dais, picking his was through puddles, senior Congress leaders such as Manas Bhuniya and Pradip Bhattacharya, who till the other day had cited age-related problems to opt out of the Lok Sabha poll contest, were seen trying to keep pace with him.

Rahul was scheduled to address a workers’ convention at the Shahid Minar grounds this afternoon, but the plan was aborted because of the squall and the heavy rain from 3.25pm to 4pm. Parts of the field got waterlogged, the tri-colour cloth covering the venue got ripped off and the sound system went out of order as water seeped into it.

At a workers’ meeting in Jalpaiguri earlier in the day, Rahul had criticised the Mamata Banerjee government for bad roads in Bengal, non-utilisation of central funds and the problems being faced by tea garden workers. Hours later, at a Trinamul workers’ meeting in Darjeeling, Mamata rebutted Rahul. Many had expected that Rahul would have picked up the thread in Calcutta.

But the weather did not permit. Even as Congress supporters from different parts of the city and North and South 24-Parganas took shelter under sheds, SPG officials in charge of Rahul’s safety and Calcutta police officers agreed that the meeting could not be held.

“The officers told us that the rally was not possible. We immediately informed the PCC president (Chowdhury), who was waiting at the airport to receive Rahulji,” said Amitava Chakraborty, a state Congress general secretary.

Police sources said images of the venue were emailed to Delhi. SPG officials who had reached the airport informed Rahul about the situation and convinced him to call off the meeting.

“There were a lot of risks involved, such as chances of a short-circuit because of the water-ravaged sound system and light wires. As the covers were torn apart, the venue was no longer enclosed. There could have been a threat to the VVIP’s security,” a senior police officer said.

With security personnel discussing the possibility of calling off the programme, there was confusion at the venue. As Congress leaders didn’t have any clue on whether the meeting could be held, they stopped taking calls from supporters and the crowd started thinning though the rain stopped and the sky cleared.

“I was getting constant updates from the venue. But I was determined to take a chance and try to take him (Rahul) to the venue,” Chowdhury said.

Adhir said that after Rahul landed at Calcutta airport — the Congress vice-president had flown to Agartala from north Bengal — he boarded the flight and requested Rahul to visit the Shahid Minar grounds.

“I told him that the workers were waiting for him and just a visit to the venue would do. Rahulji agreed and boarded a chopper to reach Race Course, from where he was driven to the venue,” Adhir said.

The moment the convoy of cars rolled into the Shahid Minar grounds at 4.56pm, supporters started shouting “Rahul Gandhi zindabad”.

Rahul, in a white kurta and blue jeans, got off the vehicle and negotiated the slushy pathway to reach the dais after shaking hands with senior Congress leaders standing in a queue to welcome him.

After Rahul left the venue, some Congress supporters were heard discussing that the meeting could have been held had the state government consented to the use of the Netaji Indoor Stadium. But most Congress leaders The Telegraph spoke to said what had happened had happened for the good.

“The fact that Rahulji came despite such inclement weather proves that he is with us. His expression while mingling with the people is an indication that he enjoyed the outing. From the reaction of the supporters, it is clear that he left a lasting impression on them,” Adhir summed up.