NEW DELHI/LUDHIANA: If his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi took the economy class to Mumbai on Monday, it was the turn of Congress
general secretary Rahul Gandhi to follow the austerity suit on Tuesday. The Gandhi scion travelled to Ludhiana from Delhi on Amritsar Swarn Shatabdi Express, hopping on the train at New Delhi Railway Station around 7.20 am.
“We had no clue that Rahul would be travelling. I got a call around 7 am when the SPG sought our permission to carry a security check. With only 15 minutes for departure, we could not prepare in the manner we would have liked to,” said Vivek Sahai, general manager Northern Railway.
According to Baroda House sources, Rahul’s ticket was bought in the last minutes and, therefore, had to be confirmed by the headquarters. What puzzled officers was the Amethi MP’s decision to take the ordinary chair car in place of the executive class. “The Congress leader refused flowers at the station saying he was an ordinary man. Later, he even refused porcelain cups saying if the norm stated that chair car passengers must use plastic cups for tea, he would gladly use these. He ate fruit, idli and vada, that other passengers ate on his way to Ludhiana,” said an official.
The passengers, however, gave contradictory reactions to Rahul’s decision to travel with the “common man”. “It’s good that Rahul is travelling with the common people. He will get to see our problems firsthand,” said a passenger. But others were circumspect. “Passengers travelling in AC in one of the most expensive trains in India don’t represent the common man. His guards stood in the C-3 coach and were a hindrance to passengers arriving during the last moments. Others wondered that with seven men travelling with the leader, how much worth the entire trouble was.
Rahul went to Ludhiana to inaugurate a Youth Congress conference and returned by the same train in the evening.
In Ludhiana, Rahul gave a rousing cry to the youth to make themselves heard and not depend solely on senior party leaders to set the agenda. He addressed 378 delegates and went very nearly to each table where the youth brigade sat deliberating on questions. Most said pollution, drug addiction, and female foeticide In Punjab and population at the national level were issues that needed attention.
And if there was any doubt as to who would lead the party in Punjab, Rahul laid these to rest by saying it would be none other than Captain Amarinder Singh. Earlier, he was whisked away from the Railway station leaving his fans waiting with flowers to greet him disappointed.