Thousands of Congress workers, leaders and local residents in Loni waited for hours to get a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi as the Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Ghaziabad on Tuesday. Police estimated that the gathering comprised of thousands of people on the 18km route in Loni.
Loni was the first place in Uttar Pradesh where the yatra entered on Tuesday. The entire 18km route on the Delhi-Saharanpur Road was heavily manned by police and security officers while local residents, supporters and party workers set up dozens of daises along the road and waited for Rahul, who finally started his yatra afoot at 1.30pm. According to police officers, the yatra entered Baghpat district at 5.30pm.
Scores of tall cutouts of Rahul, Priyanka Vadra and Sonia Gandhi with messages such as “Nafrat ke bazaar me mohbbat ki dukan khol raha hu” and “ladki hu, lad sakti hu”, were lined up outside different colonies in Loni even as the main markets remained shut for almost half a day.
“I came to get a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi. He is wearing a t-shirt, not any sweater or jacket in peak winter. This has attracted me to his yatra and in recent times, I have hardly seen any politician doing such feats on foot,” said Nadeem Salmani, a Loni resident.
“He is spreading the message of love, peace and harmony and also raising issues of youth, unemployment and rising prices. So, I feel that there is someone who is taking up our issues and seeking questions. The long yatra is indeed commendable,” said Rahul Tripathi, another resident.
Gandhi was encircled by party workers and security officers as he walked through the town while waving at the crowds as a long cavalcade followed him.
The yatra touched only a small portion of Ghaziabad district but attracted many Congress workers and supporters from Kushinagar, Lucknow, Sambhal, Bijnor, Gautam Budh Nagar, Meerut and Baghpat, among others.
“I think Rahul has the courage to ask questions and raise issues while other parties seem to be lacking when it comes to raising their voice. The yatra has an impact in Uttar Pradesh and people are talking about it. So, it should continue with the same energy and spread message of love and harmony,” said Shesh Nath Pandey, a resident of Ayodhya.
“Political leaders in Uttar Pradesh have sent him wishes and not denied anything about the yatra. So, this indirectly means that they support the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi. The yatra has created an environment among masses that there is someone who can speak on their behalf,” said Pramod Pandey, a resident of Kushinagar.
Ghaziabad police officers said the yatra went peacefully through the district and proceeded to Baghpat.
“The yatra entered Baghpat district on Tuesday evening and no untoward incident was reported,” said Iraj Raja, deputy commissioner of police (rural) of Ghaziabad.