Rahul whirlwind: Kolkata to Gangtok to Bihar

April 25th, 2009 - 11:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi Saturday set out on a whirlwind election tour, going from Kolkata to Gangtok and finally to Bihar, speaking on a range of issues from the possibility of his becoming prime minister to an alliance with the Left.
Fielding questions from reporters at a press conference in Kolkata, the 38-year-old son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi said rather candidly that he was not yet ready to be the prime minister.

“I don’t think I have the experience to be the prime minister of the country right now,” he maintained.

He lambasted the communist government in West Bengal but left the door open for a post-poll alliance, adding that the issue would be decided by “senior leaders” of his party after the Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi was all praise for the Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, the Congress’ partner in West Bengal.

Asked whether his being in politics reinforced the dynastic tag on the Congress, Rahul Gandhi shot back: “Manmohan Singh is not from the ‘Gandhi dynasty’. He is the prime minister.”

He then wrapped up his two-day West Bengal visit and left for Sikkim.

Though he spent less than an hour in Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, it was a friendly leader touching a chord with a mammoth crowd that cheered him as he said the northeast had a “big place” in the hearts of his family.

“This is not my first visit here. I was here for almost a month to train at the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute when I was 18 years old,” Gandhi, donning a traditional Lepcha jacket and a Nepali cap for the occasion, told the rally at Paljor Stadium.

As people recalled visits by his grandmother, late prime minister Indira Gandhi, and mother Sonia Gandhi, he said his family had always felt deeply for the people of Sikkim and the northeast.

“We have a very big place for you in our hearts and that is why I am here. My family has always believed that the smallest segment of the people and the smallest states should be heard more since they have a very small voice,” he said amid clapping and cheering.

Gandhi, an MP from Uttar Pradesh, said that unlike that state which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, Sikkim has only one, but for the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) it leads, the smallest sections of people were as important as the big states.

By the evening, he was in Bihar. During whistle-stop campaign meetings in the state, the Congress general secretary slammed the Nitish Kumar government for its handling of relief work after a flood in river Kosi devastated five districts last year.

At an election rally in Araria town bordering Nepal, he said though the central government mobilised “thousands of crores of rupees for relief” the money never helped the flood ravaged regions because of “bureaucratic corruption” in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled state.

“You have seen the condition of Bihar for the past nearly 20 years,” he said, taking a dig at the present state government as well as the previous rule of the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad.

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