Hundreds of cots were neatly spread across a field here for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s first ‘khat sabha’ (charpoy meetings) but little did the party know that the very khats would overshadow the first day of his mega outreach programme in Uttar Pradesh.
Within minutes of Rahul leaving the venue, onlookers swooped in and made away with the charpoys. The narrow alleys around the Dudhnath Baba Mandir Maidan got swamped with villagers carrying the ‘khats’ on their shoulders.
In the ensuing chaos, people were seen sarcastically calling out to each other while decamping with the ‘khats’.
When asked about it, even as he gingerly balanced the rally takeaway on his shoulder, a villager quipped, “Kya hai ki Rahulji ne hi diya hai (It is given by Rahulji).”
Congress leaders, travelling with the party scion, were quick to deflect criticism over the matter, saying attacking the party on the issue would boomerang on the opposition as these khats still hold importance in the countryside. The party has arranged 10,000 khats for the entire campaign.
“Whoever tries to belittle the issue will do an injustice to the poor villagers. Certain people in this country make away with thousands of crores of rupees and when a few villagers take home a thing as innocuous as a cot, all hell breaks loose. This shows the mentality of the BJP,” Congress National Spokesman Meem Afzal said.
Rahul is slated to hold hundreds of such khat sabhas and street corner meetings across his 2,500 Km-long marathon yatra during which he will cover as many as 233 assembly constituencies to connect with the people ahead of the polls scheduled next year. The Congress party has specially got these colourful ‘khats’ made in Bihar and other states for the event.
Earlier, Rahul reached Rudrapur via chopper and launched the party s door-to-door campaign to collect Kisan Mangpatras (charter of farmers demands).
The ‘khaat sabha’ is believed to be the brainchild of election strategist Prashant Kishor where Rahul Gandhi would interact with the farmers in the run up to the UP Assembly polls.
Kishor was also credited with conceptualising Narendra Modi’s hugely popular ‘chai pe charcha’ events during the latter’s successful prime ministerial campaign.