MANGALORE: The second leg of the Discover India tour of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Mangalore left the media fuming on Wednesday.
Congress leaders and security personnel denied the media entry to the venues of three of the four events scheduled, while only a few journalists could attend the other. They were sent out by force from two venues. Ironically, this took place in the home town of All India Congress Committee’s chairman of media committee,
M. Veerappa Moily, who accompanied Mr. Gandhi during the tour. Mr. Gandhi interacted with students, fishermen, and party workers and visited special children of St. Agnes School during the tour.
Presspersons staged a protest in front of the Urwa Church Hall where Mr. Gandhi interacted with fishermen. They shouted slogans against the Congress, Mr. Gandhi and the security for keeping the media at bay even after inviting them.
Congress leaders had held a series of press conferences in the run up to Mr. Gandhi’s visit and had requested presspersons to give wide publicity to the visit. Police had issued passes to presspersons to cover Mr. Gandhi’s tour.
At T.M.A. Pai Hall, where Mr. Gandhi interacted with students, the electronic media was asked to leave the hall. But the print journalists refused to leave unless a request was made by Mr. Gandhi. Such a request never came.
At the venue of the second event — Urva Church Hall — Mr. Moily and senior party leaders such as Janardhan Poojary and Oscar Fernandes promised agitating presspersons that Mr. Gandhi would talk to them before leaving. However, Mr. Gandhi was not there to meet them. The angered presspersons blocked the movement of vehicles out of the venue. Some of them blocked the vehicles by lying down on the ground, forcing Mr. Gandhi to walk up to them.
Mr. Gandhi said he wanted to avoid the press because TV channels would ask him for “bytes” (interview) and that he wanted to have a free-wheeling discussion with the sections of society in the absence of the media.
When pointed out that his party had invited presspersons, he attributed it to “some communication gap” among local leaders.
People who wanted to have a glimpse of Mr. Gandhi were also disappointed. Anil H., of Urwa, who works at Mangala Stadium waited in vain. Like Mr. Anil, many Congress supporters, who had seen television clippings of Mr. Gandhi shaking hands with people in Chamarajanagar district on Tuesday, could not get a similar gesture from him on Wednesday.