Mumbai: In a snub to Shiv Sena, Rahul Gandhi hopped on to two suburban trains on Friday throwing caution to wind in the wake of security threat to make a last minute detour through Sena bastions during his brief visit to this metropolis.
With Bal Thackeray issuing a diktat to his party cadres to greet the ‘Italian Prince’ with black flags to mark the party’s protest against his ‘Mumbai for all’ remarks, the defiant Congress general secretary cocked a snook at the Sena supremo when he jettisoned plans to go to a slum in Ghatkopar by a waiting helicopter for his second and final engagement in the city.
Unfazed by the Sena threat and in a gesture loaded with symbolism, Rahul, who was on his way from suburban Vile Parle to Ghatkopar after addressing college students abruptly disembarked from his motorcade outside Andheri railway station of Western Railway line and got in a Dadar-bound local train. There were reports that Rahul even went to an ATM.
He travelled on the Virar-Dadar fast train in a second class compartment along with the general public much to their delight but sending security personnel in a tizzy. He got off 15 minutes later around 1.15 pm at Dadar.
At Dadar railway station, Rahul crossed a bridge to come to the central line from where he took a train to Ghatkopar.
“He got into a first class coach of the Kalyan-bound to go to Ghatkopar which is four stations away,” a railway official said.
Rahul also signed autographs for starry eyed passengers who gushed at seeing him in their company. After a four-hour visit, Rahul left for Puducherry.
The scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family did not not lose an opprtunity to send a loud and clear message to the Shiv Sena warning people here against attempts to divide them on communal and linguistic basis.
“My father was born in Mumbai and mother in Italy. My great-grandfather was born in Allahabad, who also had origins in Jammu and Kashmir. I live in Delhi. Where should I say I belong to. I know one thing that I am an Indian and belong to India,“ he said in an interaction with students without even a mention of the Sena or the protests.
An SPG protectee, Rahul (39) was accompanied by the newly-appointed Indian Youth Congress president Rajeev Satav and party MP Jitendra Singh. This is Rahul’s maiden visit to the financial capital after he became the AICC general secretary.
Scores of Sena supporters have been rounded up while staging protests in the city as a massive security blanket was thrown in the city by the Mumbai police.
According to Mumbai Youth Congress president Sunil Ahire, Rahul was earlier slated to board a chopper at Pawanhans helipad in Vile Parle and land at Godrej Compound in Vikhroli to avoid any ugly incidents involving the Sena.
“But Rahul changed his mind midway,” Ahire said adding: “in a dramatic action outsmarting the Shiv Sena, fuming over his ‘Mumbai for all Indians’ remark, to board a suburban train to connect with Mumbaikars leaving the saffron protestors clueless, in a show of disdain for the outfit’s threats.”
Rahul shook hands with ordinary commuters getting clicked on mobile phone cameras and asking them about their problems.
Unmindful of the Shiv Sainiks carrying black flags and chanting slogans against him a few kilometres away in suburban Ghatkopar where he was scheduled to interact with slum youths, the Nehru-Gandhi family scion was endearing himself to the common man on his favourite mode of transport—the local train.