Rather than one good man visiting, it’s good men standing who’ll count

NAT

Close your eyes at a Rahul Gandhi rally in Shahbad, Rampur, and the resemblance is striking. When Rahul Gandhi speaks, you can hear strains of Anna Hazare, who is otherwise absent in the campaign for the state. The core appeal is similar: of the system's outsider, who seeks to vault over the people's representatives in party and government, to make a direct connect with the people.

"They say Rahul Gandhi has gone crazy," he says. "They laugh at me. Because I go to the houses of the poor, drink water from their wells… Have they ever come and visited you, asked you what you want?"

The Congress has given an "aam aadmi ki sarkar" at the Centre, he says. "We asked you what you want, you said jobs, we gave you MNREGA…" But mostly, he positions himself outside the Manmohan Singh government. His essential promise is personal: "I will take your message to Delhi. Your voice will be heard in the Lok Sabha… and in Lucknow. I will not go away. I will stay till UP stands on its feet."

Of course, Rahul's positioning is far more complicated than Anna's — he is a frontline politician, not a member of "civil society". But the core exhortation is similar: trust the good man, not the system.

Trouble is, if the Congress hopes to stage any kind of a comeback in UP, it will need several good men who are seen not as outsiders but as accessible leaders who can work the system from within to deliver vikas or development.

A space has indeed been vacated because of people's disillusionment with the limited choice between the SP's "goonda raj" and the rule of the "dalals" under Mayawati. This space is visible across castes — except perhaps in the Jatavs and Yadavs who stay almost reflexively committed to the BSP and the SP respectively.

... contd.

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