Rahul’s interaction with Kanpur students cancelled, government denies hand (Lead)

October 24th, 2008 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiKanpur, Oct 24 (IANS) Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with students at a university here was cancelled Friday in a move that senior party leaders attributed to the Mayawati government. However, top officials denied that the state government had anything to do with it. Barely a fortnight ago, the administration had prevented Congress chief Sonia Gandhi from holding a rally in her parliamentary constituency Rae Bareli.

Rahul Gandhi, on a daylong visit to Uttar Pradesh, was supposed to meet students at the Chandra Shekhar Azad Agriculture University (CSAAU) here. However, Vice Chancellor Vinod Kumar Suri was apparently told to cancel the programme.

“We were told by the administration that his programme has been cancelled. When we told Gandhi, he said he would go to the university to meet the students despite the government’s order,” an official at the university told IANS.

Gandhi, who landed here at 10 a.m., did not hold the interaction but met students while strolling through the campus. The university is holding its annual convocation Friday and state Governor T.V. Rajeswar is slated to visit here late afternoon.

The interaction was scheduled to be held in the university auditorium but it was found locked when Gandhi reached there along with other senior Congress leaders.

Union Minister of State for Home and Kanpur MP Sri Prakash Jaiswal, who was accompanying Gandhi, said: “I got a call from Vice Chancellor Vinod Kumar Suri this morning asking us not to come as the government had cancelled the programme, but we have still come.”

Gandhi strolled through the campus and then held a closed door meeting with students in the canteen of one of the hostels.

“We told them about the problems we face in our research work as the funds allocated for our studies are not reaching us. He assured us of all possible help,” Malvika Awasthi, a university student, told IANS.

Another student, Shiv Milan Yadav, was lucky enough to accompany Rahul throughout his visit on the campus.

“I walked alongside him and he also directed the special protection group not to remove me. I also told him about similar academic problems we are facing here and he assured speedy redressal,” said Yadav.

However, Gandhi maintained a distance from the media and left for the circuit house for a short break around 1.30 p.m.

Gandhi, who represents Amethi in the Lok Sabha, is also scheduled to attend a Dalit convocation later in the afternoon.

“The programme was cancelled on the instruction of the government. Security was removed abruptly just to ensure that Rahul could not meet the students,” said an angry state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

“Soon after the orders of the state government, we talked to the chancellor (governor) who permitted us to carry on with our programme,” claimed Joshi.

However, additional cabinet secretary Vijay Shanker Pandey flatly denied that the Mayawati government had anything to do with the cancellation.

“No word has gone from the government or the chief minister to disallow Rahul Gandhi’s function in the university. We are clueless about this move and fail to understand how such a decision is being attributed to the chief minister,” Pandey told IANS in Lucknow.

“We will find out how the government was brought into the picture.”

Refuting allegations about “political motivations” behind the move, another senior official in the government remarked: “If at all such a decision had been taken at the government level for political reasons, then a public rally would have been disallowed, not a function inside a university campus.”

Gandhi is going ahead with the rest of his schedule.

State Congress spokesperson A.P. Singh said: “Gandhi will be attending a closed door meeting with the owners and employees of the tannery industry and will reach the Moti Jheel area after that to attend the Dalit convention.”

After the convention, he will be visiting some schools to interact with students, he added.

Less than a fortnight ago, the Mayawati-led state government had cancelled United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s function to kick off a rail coach factory in her constituency in Rae Bareli. But later it backtracked on the decision and gave the land back to the railways.

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