Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi will begin his three-day campaign for the Gujarat Assembly elections on Monday from the crucial Saurashtra region with the state police refusing him permission to hold an open-jeep road show, but leaving him with a consolation to take out a bullock cart yatra.
Over a fortnight after he held a lively interaction with thousands of party workers at Ahmedabad Sabarmati Riverfront, the 47-year-old Congress scion is going out on a whirlwind tour of the Saurashtra region, which sends one-third of the legislators in the 182-member State Assemly, from the famous religious town of Dwarka.
He will begin his day by offering prayers at the Dwarkadheesh Krishna temple, from where he is expected to drive down to Jamnagar, interacting with locals at various educational institutions, women and businessmen.
With the police refusing him permission to cover the 135 km stretch from Dwarka to Jamnagar by an open jeep and stage roadshows citing security reasons, Gandhi would now be taking a specially done up luxury bus for him equipped with CCTV cameras. The open-jeep connect with the people might not be possible for now.
However, this does not seem to have dampened the spirits of the Congress workers, for instance, in Hanjrapar village some 25 km from Dwarka, Gandhi will enter in a traditionally decked up bullock-cart.
“Not only his welcome, but we have also made all sitting arrangements for everyone here, including that of Rahulji, in typical Saurashtra cultural style,” Palbhai Ambaliya told IANS on Sunday night.
There are three levels of seating, says Ambaliya, who is also the party’s ticket aspirant to the Dwarka Assembly seat represented at present by the Congress’ Meraaman Ahir.
“The first level is people sitting on the ground, just like the beginning of our civilisation when there were no cots or chairs.
“Then at the next level are the traditional cots, just as our civilisation progressed. The last level of the seating for the people will be chairs, as is the modern world. For Rahulji, we have this special traditional cot when he interacts with us,” Ambaliya said.
From the village of Hanjrapar which has a voter population of 1,107 from the Ahir caste, the Congress Vice President is scheduled to meet bullion traders and representatives of Jamnagar’s widely known brass parts industry.
After a night halt at Jamnagar, on Tuesday morning he will drive down to Rajkot, the hometown of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and also the key nerve centre of the Saurashtra region.
Gandhi would also offer prayers at the Khodaldham Temple, the deity of Patidar community.
On Wednesday, the Congress leader will reach Surendranagar. Here, he is expected to climb the long-winding stone stairs to the popular hilltop Chotila Temple.
He will wrap up his tour at Viramgam on the entry to Ahmedabad district, which incidentally happens to be the native home town of the young Patidar (or Patel) agitation spearhead Hardik Patel.
The Saurashtra region has been electorally tough for the Congress for the last two decades and it won only 12 of the 52 seats here in the 2012 assembly elections.
This time the party is looking at significantly improving the tally given the Patidar sentiment against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the overall farmer distress owing to various issues.
Congress hopes that Rahul Gandhi’s staying put in the region for the first time for three days at a stretch will pep up the party cadres and energize them to work for victory sinking all their differences.
The Congress Vice President is also scheduled to make similar appearances in north, central and south Gujarat regions before the December elections.