Rahul-Ajit combo try to whip up magic in Meerut (Lead)February 2nd, 2012 - 8:34 pm ICT by IANS
Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), Feb 2 (IANS) Once rivals, now allies. The tie-up between the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was played up in Uttar Pradesh Thursday with Rahul Gandhi and Ajit Singh making their first joint bid to woo voters at a massive rally here.
This was their first rally ahead of the elections in the state that begin Feb 8 though this western Uttar Pradesh area goes to the polls only Feb 28.
As thousands of men, women and children packed into the Ramlila Ground in Meerut, about 80 km from Delhi, listened, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi made only one promise: his party “would listen to the voice of the people if voted to power”. RLD leader Ajit Singh supported job quotas for Jats and backward Muslims, caling it “social justice”.
“We are not giving you any unrealistic promises. The only promise is that we will listen to you, as the UPA governments led by Manmohan Singhji and (UPA chairperson) Soniaji did,” Gandhi said.
The crowd, a mix of Congress supporters mostly from urban areas and RLD backers from villages, cheered merrily although Gandhi arrived 75 minutes behind schedule.
Youngsters danced and waved flags when the election song of the Congress, “Udo, jaago, badlo Uttar Pradesh!” (Arise, awaken and change Uttar Pradesh), sung to the tune of “Jai Ho”, was played.
Pushing the UPA cause, Gandhi said Congress-led governments had implemented several pro-poor programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the UID project. And so it was re-elected in 2009.
Hitting out at Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader and Chief Minister Mayawati, he said her government was infamous for corruption, oppressing farmers and misuising central government funds.
He did not spare Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav either and criticised him for making unrealistic promises like free electricity. “If you ask Mulayam to change the blue skies to green, he will readily promise that too.”
His ally Ajit Singh went on a slightly different track.
Keeping an eye on the Muslim population, Ajit Singh said that job sub-quota for Muslims was neither new nor unjust. “It had been recommended by the Mandal commission long ago.”
Focusing on Jats, a community to which he belongs, he assured them job quotas in central services.
Praising Rahul Gandhi, he said young leaders like him were pursuing an agenda of development.
Several banners and boards feature Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, and Ajit Singh’s father Charan Singh, also a former prime minister. Indira Gandhi and Charan Singh were once bitter rivals.
But the times have changed.
“Politics changes over the time. Old rivalries also change,” said Feroze Khan, a Congress worker, who believes the alliance is “the need of the hour”.
The RLD and Congress entered into a electoral alliance in December, paving way for the entry of Ajit Singh in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.
Sunil Tyagi, a Congress activist, said the new alliance would help the Congress-RLD alliance win most of the seven seats in Meerut district.
In 2007, the BSP won five seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had allied with RLD, two seats.
–Indo-Asian News Service
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