To shake off the ‘pro-Muslim’ tag of the party and to send a message of being truly secular, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited St Joseph’s Cathedral at Hazratganj, Nadwatul-Ulema and a Dalit youth hostel at Raidas temple before starting his ‘roadshow’ in Lucknow on Friday afternoon. Interestingly, some Shia leaders declined to meet him.
He was also scheduled to stop for a darshan at Hanuman Setu temple but carried on with his roadshow as the doors to the temple were closed in the afternoon.
After interacting with students and assuring them of all possible help, Rahul directed Rajya Sabha members to give Rs 40 lakh for the immediate renovation of Ambedkar Hostel. During his roadshow, Rahul is also expected to stop for a darshan at Yahiyaganj gurdwara.
On a 2,500 km-long journey from Deoria to Delhi for Kisan Yatra, Rahul reached Lucknow from Rae Bareli on Friday afternoon and met Shia leaders. He later visited the St Joseph’s Cathedral in Hazratganj and lit a candle there before heading to Nadwa to meet students. During his 11-minute stay there, the Congress vice-president met All-India Muslim Personal Law Board chairperson Maulana Rabe Hassan Nadvi and other clerics. Sources at Nadwa said Maulana Rabe Hassan presented itra (perfume) to Rahul and blessed him saying that he should dedicate himself to the country.
After the meeting, Nadwa representative Maulana Hamza Nadvi said the institution’s gate is open to all parties, including the BJP. He refused to comment on any party’s philosophy but added that the situation in UP and the country was not good.
Later, Rahul went to a hostel for Dalit students at Raidas temple and after finding the poor condition of the building announced to give Rs 40 lakh from his MPLAD fund for its repair.
Earlier, a Shia delegation led by cleric Kalbe Sadiq met Rahul Gandhi at the VVIP guest house and demanded greater representation of the community in the organisation and poll arena.
“In 17 Assembly segments in UP, the Shia community has a say but still in 2012 polls, the Congress fielded lone candidate former MP Noor Bano’s son from Rampur,” the Maulana told Rahul.
“Even in the past, the Congress ignored the community even when its last Muslim MLA from Lucknow Ali Zakeer was a Shia. We demand more institutions for Shia youths in Lucknow as there is no good college,” said the Maulana.
However, the All-India Shia Personal Law Board boycotted Rahul Gandhi and refused to meet him saying that the Congress had always neglected the community during its regime.