Aligarh: Rahul Gandhi on Saturday finished off his padyatra against the UP government by holding a mahapanchayat - with renewed rhetoric against Mayawati.
Responding to his critics at the grand finale of his four-day padyatra, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi said, "People say this padyatra is a drama. But I say, so many farmers would not have died in UP if other leaders took the pain to talk to the people."
At his mahapanchayat in Aligarh, a crowd of approximately 20000 people turn up at the Numaish Maidan - many of them farmers from western UP unhappy with the compensation they got from the Mayawati government. Rahul Gandhi promised them a land acquistion bill designed with their needs in mind.
"In case we make a law, I think, we should discuss the issues with you," said Rahul.
But walking the talk may not be that easy. The UP election next year will be his single biggest test as a political leader. Mayawati is a formidible opponent and the 2004 assembly elections were a wash out for the Congress. The party hopes that Rahul's Padyatra replicates the success of his mothers Jan Sampark Sabha's in the 2004 elections. Despite the dais roof near collapse because of heavy rains, the signs on Saturday looked encouraging.
Rahul Gandhi has walked 75 km along the Yamuna Expressway - in the hope that it leaders straight to a victory in the very crucial UP elections next year. Mayawati may call it wishful thinking, but given the crowd that came to hear him speak in Aligarh, she may have reason to worry.
That's perhaps explains the prompt dismissal of Rahul's Padyatra by the BSP. In a statement issued moments after Rahul took off from Aligarh, the BSP said his reaching out to the farmers meant nothing.
"What has the Congress done for the farmers in last 50 years? Yuvraj of the Congress can't solve farmers' problems in just five minutes. BSP has done everything for the welfare of farmers of the state," said the statement.
The farmers' vote, coupled with the Muslim support, could cause a severe dent to the BSP's numbers. But it'll take more than a padyatra and a mahapanchayat for Rahul Gandhi to get a decent opening in Election 2012.