Rahul Gandhi foregrounds women's safety in Congress' Jan Aakrosh rally, lays ground for 2019 polls

The Congress’ 'Jan Aakrosh Rally’ (public anger rally) at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday seems to be an earnest beginning by the party president Rahul Gandhi. Through it, the party appears to have sounded the election bugle, not just for the upcoming Karnataka assembly polls, but also the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Rahul Gandhi’s best bet to win an important election remains the simmering public anger on some vital issues. If the Congress wins the upcoming Karnataka polls, it can pave the way for the party's rejuvenation.

The Congress president, in his address on Sunday, attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one of these burning topics. He said, "Modi ji speaks about ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. However, in the history of India — for the first time in 70 years — India’s prime minister has been questioned abroad. He was told that women in India are not safe... women are being attacked.”

Besides the Congress president, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also attacked the Narendra Modi government on declining safety of women in India.

The horrific Unnao and Kathua rapes and the equally shocking handling of the matter by the government has handed the opposition a concrete issue with which to confront the government, especially because it concerns half the population of this country. With the Jan Aakrosh rally, Congress seems poised to turn this public anger to its advantage, if it plays all its cards right.

The enthusiasm of the Congress workers at the rally – both men and women – was palpable and they seemed to see promise in their leader to deliver on the burning issues. Workers, especially women from several places across the country were seen holding large placards and posters with Rahul Gandhi's photo and the message – “Rapes not my New India.”

A poster protesting against rape held up during the Congress rally on Sunday. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

A poster protesting against rape held up during the Congress rally on Sunday. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

“Besides farmers, labourers, small traders and youth, it’s the women this time who are exasperated by the atrocities against them. We have seen how rape accused had been openly supported. This has brought down the trust among women for the BJP and Modi government,” Sharmistha Mukherjee, president, Delhi Women Congress told Firstpost.

A large group of office-bearers and workers of Mumbai Women Congress Committee registered its strong presence in the rally with flags, banners and placards.

“Atrocities against women have increased across the country since 2014. Recently, we witnessed heinous rapes in Kathua and Unnao. A BJP MLA is accused of involvement in a rape case. The government should order fast track courts to deliver justice to rape victims and their families. Congress has consistently been raising these issues,” Dr Anjali Jadhav, president, Mumbai Women Congress Committee told Firstpost.

Women Congress members at the rally. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Women Congress members at the rally. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

“Women’s security has become a major concern. Small traders in localities and suburbs are facing harassment from government authorities. Congress must come back and we all are working together to ensure that our party wins in the 2019 general election,” said Conny D’souza, member of Women Congress Committee (Ward 86, Mumbai) said.

A women Congress team from Mumbai planned to meet the party president in the evening and hand over a memorandum and details of their work.

“We reached on Sunday morning from Mumbai to attend this rally. We’ve planned to meet Rahul ji in the evening before leaving for Mumbai and also apprise him about our work and our faith on his leadership,” added Manjushree and Bella Sheikh, party members from Andheri (East).

Besides the units of the Congress party, several other organisations working with farmers, labourers, sanitation workers, etc participated in the rally and expressed their allegiance to the Congress.
The women members of Rashtriya Valmiki Sena from Ghaziabad who have extended their support to Congress party said after the rally that Congress should come to power to restore to them their traditional employment which they lost due to the BJP government.

Members of the Rashtriya Valmiki Sena. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Members of the Rashtriya Valmiki Sena. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

The people from Valmiki Samaj work as sanitation workers, and on clearing of garbage, etc.

“We had a lot of hopes after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. But things have become worse for us since then. Under the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, the municipal corporation has introduced a mechanised system of collecting garbage by using vehicles. Earlier. this was our traditional job. But now, we all have been rendered unemployed,” Rajo Devi, representing the Rashtriya Valmiki Sena told Firstpost after the rally.

What next for Congress women workers?

“We’ve decided to take forward the message of Rahul ji to grassroots. Besides disseminating the message, we’ll plan various activities at various levels – district, block and village. We’ve to fight united against the BJP government and ensure the Congress’ victory in forthcoming Assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha election,” Sharmistha Mukherjee added.

A caveat

Sonia Gandhi concluded her address by saying, “Janata humara saath dene ko taiyyar hai (People are ready to support us).”

This Jan Aakrosh rally however, has handed an inbuilt caveat to Rahul Gandhi. His success in the forthcoming elections will depend on his ability to turn this anger into votes. If this doesn’t happen this ‘public anger rally’ will become just another futile road show like so many others in the past.

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Updated Date: Apr 29, 2018 22:02 PM

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