Rahul stays in Dalit hut again, Mayawati government fumes

Lucknow/ New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi has done it again. The Congress general secretary took his party colleagues and the state administration in Uttar Pradesh by surprise when he landed here unannounced and spent Wednesday night in a poor Dalit’s hut in a remote village of Shravasti district without many in the state getting to know about it.

Caught unawares, a peeved Uttar Pradesh government of Chief Minister Mayawati shot off a letter to the central government complaining that it might create security problems for the highly protected politician.

Support TwoCircles

To this the Congress in Delhi reacted strongly, saying Gandhi was not expected to inform other poliitical parties about his movements and that the Special Protection Group (SPG) was told about his visit.

“No politician informs other parties about his movements. The SPG was informed and after that his security is the responsibility of the state government,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters in Delhi.

While Congressmen and the Uttar Pradesh administration alike sweated to track down his whereabouts as he went about moving from one place to another, Rahul decided to stay in Rampur-Deogan village under Bhinga sub-division of Shravasti district, where he spent the night in the hut of a Dalit, people in the lowest rung of India’s socio-economic ladder.

He not only chose to share a meal with his host Cheddi Pasi, but also freely mingled with the villagers Thursday morning, asking them about their day-to-day problems and inquiring whether the benefits of various centrally sponsored schemes were reaching them.

Local cops and media were kept at bay till 12.30 p.m., when Rahul once again whizzed off to another undeclared destination, knowledgeable security officials said.

It was widely believed that he would drive through Gonda and Faizabad, making similar unscheduled halts before reaching his parliamentary constituency Amethi by Thursday evening.

Fuming at his wild cat movements, the state government dashed off a letter to the union home ministry expressing concern over violation of protocol by the Gandhi scion.

“Rahul Gandhi is a SPG protected VIP, whose movements have to be properly monitored and covered under a prescribed security cordon; but the manner in which he was spinning around the state on his own was a gross violation of the laid-down security norms; after all it is the responsibility of the state to provide him appropriate security apart from his SPG cover,” pointed out a top police officer.

“We have conveyed our concern in this regard to the centre and I am sure they will take serious note of it,” he said.

Besides maintaining that the SPG was informed of Rahul’s tour, the Congress spokesperson claimed that the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) felt politically threatened. “It is the (result of) insecurity that the mass contact programme of Rahul Gandhi has generated,” she said.

While Rahul’s movements from Barabanki, where he made his first halt after zipping away in his Tata Safari from Lucknow airport, were reported by some local journalists who ran into him by chance, his subsequent drive to Shravasti and the night halt in a tiny village remained a secret until Thursday morning.

Local Congressmen were led to believe that he had driven off from Bahraich towards Gonda, from where he would head via Faizabad to Amethi where he would spend the night at the Munshiganj guest house.

Barabanki, Bahraich and Faizabad are all neighbouring districts.

Party workers in Amethi kept waiting for Rahul almost the whole night and it was only in the morning that they realised that their MP had chosen a village in Shravasti for his night halt.

On Jan 16 this year, Rahul and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spent a night in a Dalit family’s hut in Simra village, part of Rahul’s Amethi constituency after his visitor wanted to get a taste of “real” rural life in India.