Date: 17/11/2013

Ambika Pandit, TNN | Nov 18, 2013, 01.25 AM IST

NEW DELHI: It was supposed to be a show of strength for the Congress but turned out to be somewhat of an embarrassment, with a poor turnout at a city election meeting forcing Rahul Gandhi to finish his speech in just about seven minutes.

For starters, the organizers had failed to get a wholesome crowd in Dakshinpuri, which is regarded to be a party stronghold. On top of that, Rahul didn't help matters by reaching three hours behind schedule, ostensibly because he didn't want coverage of the rally to clash with the publicity of a party press conference.

Rahul highlighted the Dikshit government's development record and attacked the BJP but the crowd didn't look engaged and sections of it got up to leave. Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit appealed to the crowd to stay put and listen to Rahul but that didn't stem the thinning.

Sunday's disappointing show could be a cause of concern for Congress as its hopes of retaining power in Dakshinpuri are based on the calculation that the poor and migrants, who constitute the majority in the constituency, will continue to stand by the party. In the near run, the organizers will also have to explain to the leadership the reasons for the poor turnout.

While other leaders targeted the Aam Aadmi Party, Rahul's pitch was performance of the Congress government in Delhi. "Ye sab Congress ne kiya hai taki aam aadmi sarkar se jude aur aam aadmi hi faisle karey (The Congress has done all this to ensure that the common man is involved in governance and the common man takes the decisions)," he said.

Rahul opened his speech by calling Delhi a city of migrants. "Delhi is a like a mini-India where people come from all over. My family hails from Kashmir and they moved to Uttar Pradesh and then Delhi. Similarly, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit too moved from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi. The city embraces everyone who comes here and offers opportunities to all," Rahul said, trying to strike a chord with the crowd, most of whom were migrants.

Without naming opposition parties, Rahul said that unlike in states like Karnataka and Maharashtra, in Delhi, there was no differential treatment for migrants and under Dikshit's governance there was total harmony. While both the states currently have Congress governments, Rahul's reference appears to have been to the previous BJP regime in Karnataka and the Shiv Sena's anti-migrants stand in Maharashtra.

"The Congress government has worked to empower the aam aadmi, the women in the Capital and the country. We gave the country the Right to Information Act to fight against corruption," Rahul said. He cited the Bhagidari programme of Dikshit's government as an attempt to involve the common man in governance.

Promising more infrastructure for the city, Rahul said, if back in power, the city would get a larger Metro network and also a monorail among other developmental projects.