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Jul 07, 2011 at 08:47am IST

Ground Report: The politics of a padyatra

Tappal: It's the third day of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's four-day padyatra. He is headed to Zikarpur where three farmers were killed last year in anti-land acquisition protests.

Gandhi is expected to make impromptu stops, and continue his interaction with farmers. He has been joined by Youth Congress leaders Meenakshi Natrajan and Ravnet Bittoo.

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Sources say they have been sent as back-up in case the Mayawati administration picks on Gandhi Meanwhile, Section 144 remains in Aligarh where the padyatra will culminate in the Kisan Mahapanchayat on Saturday.

Gandhi continued his Padyatra across the farmer belt in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. On day 2 of his Kisan Sandesh Padyatra, Gandhi kept up a brisk pace. Meeting surprised passerbys, allowing some a picture and keeping the 150 plus media contingent on it's toes.

He is 65 kilometres down and 100 kilometres still to go and lots of chaupals on the way.

After a speech, Gandhi made a quick visit to the local school. He was then off again - visiting villages along the 165 kilometre Yamuna Expressway. It's this belt that has seen sustained and bloody anti-land acquisition protests over the last one year - but not everyone is impressed.

One of the elderly villagers said, "Padyatra is fine but why hasn't his government at the Centre bought the Land Acquisition Act. No vote for him till that happens."

Without Digvijaya Singh or any other senior leader in attendance, this is Gandhi's one man show. He smiles, he listens and sometimes stops his speech to thank people. But he knows the bouquets may turn into brickbats if the yatra fails to generate votes in the 2012 elections.

This padyatra is the starting point of Gandhi's one year probation period.

The UP elections next year are his first real test as a politician - a victory or defeat in UP will be seen as a victory or defeat of Rahul Gandhi.

Occasional moments of sympathy with farmers is no longer enough, this time he will have to demonstrate if there is substance behind the style. If there is political will behind the photo op, the road is a long one and his Reeboks and Gandhi tag will take him only that far.

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