Aligarh, July 9: A congregation of farmers erupted in cheers today when Rahul Gandhi snubbed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for terming his ‘padayatra' a ‘drama' by saying he would not mind this tag for his contact with poor.
“If some people think this is a drama, (nautanki). If they feel so, that is fine with me. I think that a politician should talk to the people and should be among them. You are justly asking for your rights,” he said as he struck a instant chord with farmers who descended upon the Exhibition Grounds in this town for the “kisan mahapanchayat”.
The AICC general secretary flew in from Delhi and was accorded a rapturous welcome on his arrival at the mahapanchayat venue, a day after he wound up his four-day ‘footmarch' to espouse the cause of the farmers over alleged forcible land acquisition in UP at cheap prices.
Slogans rent the air and Rahul waved to the crowds as he reached the venue around 1.40 pm.
Earlier, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, patiently heard some representatives of farmers at the mahapanchayat and took notes as the farmers raised their issues and problems - that they be involved in the process of development.
As farmers at the venue screamed from the separate stage set for them to air their views, and jostled amongst one another to speak out, Rahul was seen calming them down.
He even asked the gathering to keep quiet, when the farmers were speaking.
Rahul later echoed their concerns from a dais packed with top Congress leaders including Minority Affairs Minister Salmaan Khursheed, Ministers of State RPN Singh, Jitin Prasad and Sachin Pilot and State Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, while AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and many other Congress leaders were seen moving below the stage below.
The Amethi MP played his pro-farmer, pro-poor card well, as he said, “We want to make poor farmers a part of the development process because their lands are being forcibly taken away forcibly.”
Having struck the right note, Rahul managed to garner some generous praises from farmer representatives who spoke alongside Congress leaders from the dais.
One of them said, “You are not a leader who wants to satisfy farmers by mere words.
You are genuinely wiping their tears by listening to their woes.”
When Rahul arrived at the heavy-security exhibition ground area that the SPG had sealed completely, he was given a traditional welcome during which a “pagri” was put on his head amidst loud applause.
He was later gifted with a “hookah” to relish, which he handed over behind.
He accepted the gifts even as Congress supporters from the crowd raised “Rahul zindabad” slogans.
From the dais where he sat against the backdrop of huge posters bearing the images of Sonia Gandhi, himself and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and State Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Rahul often gestured to the Congress workers to keep quiet.
He took the stage once all the farmer representatives had finished speaking.
And as the VVIP took to the dais, farmers screamed from the ground and scrambled to get heard.
Such was the scramble to speak from the separate stage for farmer representatives that the organizers had to, at one point, threaten to cut off power supply to the mikes.
It was later done so to help Gandhi speak, as farmers did not stop from taking over the mike into their own hands.
To soothe the frayed nerves of those who were left out, Rahul said, “You all can meet me later.”
Later he shook hands with the farmers and moved around the muddy security ring in front of the dais, which saw his slippers and pyjama turning muddy.
He later made a hurried exit from the venue straight to the helipad from where he returned to the capital. PTI