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Dodging all, Rahul Gandhi meets families of stampede victims

Mangarh (Pratapgarh), March 5 (IANS) Dodging policemen and giving his own partymen the slip, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi called on families of the victims of Thursday’s stampede at an ashram here.

Taking a chartered plane from New Delhi, Gandhi flew down straight to Allahabad from where he drove down to Kunda town around 3 p.m.

However, he chose to deviate from his schedule and instead of visiting the Bhakti Dham ashram that became a death trap for 63 women and children, the Congress leader went to the homes of victims whose wailing families have yet to get out of the shock and grief that hit them Thursday noon.

Not only security personnel, including a accompanying batch of Special Protection Group sleuths, but the entire media corps also kept waiting for the Congress celebrity for more than five hours.

‘Never before have I carried out a VVIP duty in this manner, where the personage to be protected keeps hoodwinking his protectors and shoots off to unscheduled destinations,’ remarked an Uttar Pradesh police officer, who preferred anonymity.

Ashram founder-head Kripaluji Maharaj, a popular godman in the area who allegedly slipped out of the ashram shortly after the tragedy, was also back in the hope of having an audience with the Congress bigwig.

Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tiwari, a Pratapgarh MLA as well as local Lok Sabha member Ratna Singh, cut a sorry figure as they too were at a total loss about their leader’s rapidly changing itinerary.

‘We were also told that he would come straight to the ashram, that is why we too kept waiting for him here, but a message has just been flashed on the police wireless that after taking a round of different villages, he went straight to Kunda from where he would go back to Allahabad to catch his return flight to Delhi,’ Tiwari told anxiously awaiting mediapersons at the ashram around 8.45 p.m.

Among the villages where Rahul Gandhi was stated to have spent most of his time were Itaura, Mowai-kalan, Peer Nagar and Maatpur, all within 3-4 km of the site of the tragedy. He kept all Congress leaders too at a distance.

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