A steady stream of people gathered along NH 33 here as Congress leaders and cadre shouted slogans in anticipation of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘roadshow’ on Friday.
Subodh Kant Sahay, MP from Ranchi, addressed a small group of local mediapersons and cadres who gathered along the road and around a government school ground, where the Congress vice-president’s helicopter was expected to land. A mix of party supporters, shopkeepers, passers-by, who watched, were both excited and sceptical.
“Rahul Gandhi has a clean image. This visit may help get them some extra support in elections,” said Suresh Sahu, a farmer who watched from an eating stall. Manki (title for traditional village head) Jai Narayan, a farmer himself, said: “Modi or Rahul, Gujarat or Delhi means little here. Our leaders are JMM, AJSU, and Babulal Marandi [of JVM-P]. We can at least reach their homes and offices if we want to approach them for something.”
Kalicharan Munda, a former Congress MLA, said Mr. Gandhi’s visit would make a big difference to party workers.
As the time for Mr. Gandhi’s appearance drew closer, dancers from tribal communities — women in red and white saris, and men in dhotis wearing peacock feathers on their heads — began performing along the highway.
A few members of the youth wing sported Rahul Gandhi T-shirts and masks. Among those who had especially reached Ormanjhi to get a glimpse of the leader were anganwadi workers and leaders representing minority forums. “The Congress started the anganwadi scheme so I owe my livelihood to them. But our salary is Rs.2,500 and this is something the party should address,” said Ghaneshwari Devi from Bhaginbanda. Md. Ainul Ansari of the Muslim Ekta Committee said he hoped to appeal to Mr. Gandhi for 25 per cent reservation for Muslims in government jobs and more assistance for artisans.
Several of those gathered said they were disappointed at the failure of Mr. Sahay and Congress MLA Sawna Lakra, who is in jail after being convicted of murder charges last May.
“My father was a Congressman, I will always vote for the Congress. But what kind of people are they giving ticket to? Sahay almost never visits; they have appointed Ministers in the State whose criminal cases we read about in the papers every day,” said M.M. Thakur, a retired military man who was making his way to the government school ground where Mr. Gandhi’s helicopter landed.