Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh) : An exceptionally tight security net was thrown around the collectorate here Saturday as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi arrived to file his nomination papers for the Amethi parliamentary seat, better known as his and his family’s pocket-burrow for decades.
Accompanied by his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, late father Rajiv Gandhi’s close friend Satish Sharma, advocate K.C. Kaushik and local Congress legislator Ram Sewak Dhobi, the young scion of India’s most prominent political family zoomed in and out of the chamber of the returning officer without looking left or right or having a single word with anyone around.
Everyone, including mediapersons, were kept at a safe distance from the otherwise affable leader who is seen in Congress ranks as a future prime minister.
Unlike in the past, when the media was allowed access inside the boudnary walls of the collectorate but kept in a corner behind the barricading to enable Rahul to have a word with the press, on Saturday, the collectorate was turned into an impregnable fortress inside which even Rahul Gandhi’s or Sonia Gandhi’s vehicles were not allowed.
Their high security considerations notwithstanding, both the mother and son had to step out of their vehicles and walk up to the room of additional district magistrate (revenue) Radhey Shyam, the Amethi returning officer.
The returning officer’s chamber remained out-of-bounds even for the Special Protection Group (SPG) that provides cover to Rahul Gandhi and his mother.
“We are strictly sticking to the norms laid down by the Election Commission which do not permit entry of more than four persons to accompany the candidate for filing the nomination papers,” explained Sultanpur district magistrate R.K. Singh.
Asked if SPG personnel were not exempt from such restrictions, he replied in the affirmative but hastened to add: “They are exempt allright, but Rahul Gandhi never insisted, otherwise we would have allowed the SPG in too.”
However, Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Anuj Kumar Bishnoi told mediapersons later Saturday evening in Lucknow: “No restriction was imposed by the Election Commission on the entry of the media inside the collectorate; the restriction was only for persons accomoanying the candidate.”
Attired in a spotless white kurta-pyjama, Rahul Gandhi seemed quite inclined to give some bytes to the anxiously awaiting mediapersons, but the commotion created by Congress workers who jostled and pushed around to get closer to the two leaders prompted the SPG to literally whisk them away in their vehicles.
Rahul Gandhi filed four sets of nomination papers. Of the four proposers, two were his party’s Dalit legislators Shiv Balak Pasi and Ram Sewak Dhobi – representing two key assembly segments of his constituency.
The remaining two were filed by prominent local Congressmen and Rahul’s trusted lieutenant Mohammad Naim and Manoj Mattoo, his constituency manager.
Jai Prakash and Usha Titus, two special observers appointed by the Election Commission for Amethi, were present all through the filing process.