Congress party's mascot Rahul Gandhi virtually gave jitters to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati when he landed in Jhansi on Friday as the head of a band of more than 200 farmers with whom he sat on a dharna to draw the local administration's attention to the plight of the drought-hit poverty-ridden peasants.
This was a part of his renewed campaign against irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Farmers' suicides have also been reported in the past from this region of Uttar Pradesh.
Rahul's repeated forays into Dalit pockets, with the obvious aim to retrieve what was once a Congress vote bank, have been worrying Mayawati, who now virtually monopolises the Dalit electorate.
Rahul arrived in Jhansi in the afternoon from the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh where he had been camping since Thursday.
He drove down to Ghisauli village where he had been earlier last week to get a first hand account of the plight of the drought hit farmers who were also being denied employment assured under the centrally funded NREGS.
Farmers of the village had complained to Rahul that they were being denied employment under NREGS, which guarantees 100 days engagement against a daily wage of Rs 100 during a year's span. They were also stated to have made it loud and clear to Rahul that they were not impressed by his fleeting visits.
"There is some commotion when someone like you or Chief Minister Mayawati comes here; but no sooner than you all leave, officials turn apathetic once again," the farmers were stated to have told Rahul, who was also urged to accompany them to the divisional commissioner.
As if to send the message loud and clear that he did not believe in lip service, Rahul decided to rush back to the village within a week's time.
What left local officials at their wit's end was Rahul's sudden arrival at the doorstep of divisional commissioner P V Jagmohan on Monday afternoon.
On the other hand, Rahul had already endeared the farmers by joining the farmers on a 40 km ride from Ghisauli to the divisional commissioner's residence in one of the five locally-arranged ordinary buses.
Panic prevailed in and around the commissioner's residence that was sealed off by cops who intercepted Rahul about 500 metres away and disallowed him from moving further.
"The divisional commissioner sent word that he was willing to meet Rahul alone, but would not allow him to bring the 200 -- odd farmers accompanying him," said a local congress party source.
Rahul sat on a dharna on the road itself along with the harried farmers, crating a piquant situation for the local officials, who remained in a fix as none other than Chief Minister Mayawati herself was understood to be monitoring the developments.
Apparently, on getting a green signal from state capital Lucknow, the commissioner agreed to let Rahul in along with the band of farmers.
After a one-to-one with commissioner P V Jagmohan and his team of officials, Rahul came out and told curious media persons, "I came here to convey the plight of these villagers to the commissioner; they are very poor people and they wanted that I must accompany them so that their grievance against serious discrepancies and irregularities in NREGS could be redressed."
He said, "The commissioner has promised to ensure proper implementation of NREGS in this village so that these poor farmers were duly employed and paid the prescribed wages under the provisions of the scheme."