Austerity express: With ‘waiting list’ stamp, Rahul confirms berth


Rahul Gandhi now has a head start in the great austerity march. On Tuesday, the Congress leader travelled economy class on Swarn Shatabdi to Ludhiana, and back, refusing an executive class seat (that he is entitled to as an MP), executive class cutlery and even executive class flowers. The security detail did step on a few passengers' feet, but in the season of austerity, the fact that Rahul figured, though briefly, in a waiting list — before a headquarters quota was dipped into to rustle up three seats — is set to go a long way.

The seats were booked on coach C3 of the Shatabdi for Rahul Gandhi (38), Kanishka Singh (38) and Jitender Singh (37). One seat in the name of Sachin Rao was cancelled at the last moment. His early-morning departure was smooth, with few passengers travelling at the time. However, on the return journey, in the same coach, some passengers complained of being stopped by his security.

A resident of Amritsar who travelled with Rahul in the morning, Jagmail Singh, said: There were no security checks at all. It was when we saw some stern-looking securitywallahs going and up and down the aisle that we realised that we had a VIP on board."

Rahul, who sat in the first row, was served vegetarian breakfast, on normal cutlery. Reportedly he demanded that he be served water too in a plastic cup like the other passengers.

He reached to a warm welcome by proud Congressmen. After addressing a Youth Congress meeting, Rahul returned to Delhi by the evening Swarn Shatabdi.

This time, with the train full, some passengers were inconvenienced by the Congress leader's security. Shiv Parasada Mittal and wife Raj Rani Mittal said they found it tough to reach, ironically, their C3 executive class coach which is right behind the economy class. "It is nice to see VVIPs like Rahul travelling by train, but for old people like us for whom walking is a difficult task, a detour to reach our coach is difficult."

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