Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to the poll-bound Mizoram, was riding pillion on a scooter-taxi, from veteran Congress leader Lal Thanhawla’s residence at Zarkawt, where he had a breakfast, to Aijal Club where he was scheduled to address a press conference. It is a stretch of 3 kilometres.
Remruata Renthlei, chairman of the Congress media cell, explained that Rahul’s intention was to gain firsthand experience of the much-discussed traffic discipline, and he found it to be impressive.
This unique image of the 53-year Nehru-Gandhi scion riding as a pillion passenger evoked memories for many, particularly among the older generation. It harkened back to the historic event of early 1987 when his entire family visited Mizoram to witness Mizoram’s elevation from a Union Territory to a full-fledged state.
Rahul Gandhi’s father Rajiv Gandhi, then a Prime Minister, visited Mizoram in February 1987 to inaugurate Mizoram statehood, which was the outcome of a peace accord between the central government, led by Rajiv Gandhi, and the Mizo National Front.
“Accompanying Rajiv Gandhi on this momentous occasion was his entire family, including his 16-year-old son, Rahul Gandhi. They traversed the streets of Aizawl in a Willy’s Jeep, driven by Lal Thanhawla, warmly waving to the large crowds that had gathered along the roadside to catch a glimpse of them,” recounted a Congress leader in Aizawl.
Not only Aizawl, Rajiv Gandhi’s family also visited Lunglei by road on that same jeep, interacting with people on the way, without much of security guards, he added.
The Congress leader said since that time, the Nehru-Gandhi family has shared a profound and enduring emotional bond with the Mizos, further strengthening the ties between the people of Mizoram and the Gandhis.
In a touching gesture, Rahul’s media team uploaded a video of him riding pillion on a scooter taxi in Aizawl, juxtaposed with an old footage of his late father traveling on the back of a Willy’s Jeep in Aizawl.
“It symbolises Rahul Gandhi’s modesty and love for the common people, and also the continuation of their family’s cherished relationship with Mizoram,” he said.
At the press conference
At the press conference, Gandhi said that the upcoming assembly polls is a fight to defend the idea of Mizoram and protecting its residents’ freedom, tradition and religion, while accusing two other major parties in Mizoram, ruling MNF and ZPM of being entry points for BJP.
“While the Mizo National Front (MNF) is directly allied with the BJP, it is very clear that the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) is not fighting the saffron party,” he said.
“The Congress will form the government in Mizoram. People of the state understand what is happening… The real question of the election is whether the RSS is going to control Mizoram or not. It can do so through the MNF or ZPM,” he added.
Gandhi said the opposition alliance will defend the “idea of India” by protecting its values, constitutional framework and freedom of people irrespective of religion or culture to express themselves and live in harmony.
Lashing out at the BJP and its ideological parent RSS, Gandhi said, “Their vision for our nation is different from ours. We believe in decentralisation whereas the BJP believes that all decisions should be taken in Delhi.” He asserted that the Congress will win all the upcoming assembly elections in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana.
“We will decimate the BJP in Madhya Pradesh. We had wiped them out in Chhattisgarh and will defeat them again. We trounced the BJP in Rajasthan in previous polls and will repeat it this time. We will do the same in Northeast. Nobody should underestimate the idea of Congress,” Gandhi added.
Asserting that the Congress helped lay the foundation of the country and that the grand old party has a record of defending that foundation, he accused the BJP of attempting to capture the entire institutional framework of the nation.
“Different states in the Northeast are facing attacks from the BJP and RSS, threatening the foundations of your religious beliefs and languages. RSS believes that India should be governed by a single ideology and organisation, which we are precisely opposing.
“We want the people of Mizoram to take decisions for their future. We want them to be comfortable in expressing themselves, their religious or social practices. We do not believe Mizoram should be ruled directly from Delhi. We believe in devolving power to the people of the state,” he said.