Rallyists show 'copy cap' solidarity

Sumi Sukanya

New Delhi, Nov. 4: The intent was to "show the detractors" that the youth supported Rahul Gandhi, but the "showing" was done entirely in language borrowed from the detractors.

At today's Ramlila Maidan rally, about 200 youths wore white Nehru caps emblazoned with "I am Rahul" and "Main Rahul hoon" ' a trend popularised by the "I am Anna" and "I am Arvind" caps worn by India Against Corruption activists.

Most of the wearers seemed to be Congress activists from Haryana. Some others were carrying a folded piece of paper on their heads with the same slogan inscribed with a sketch pen.

Questioned, some of them said the "novel" idea had been thought up by party leaders in Haryana although no one could name them.

"The idea is to show our detractors that Rahulji is not alone and there are thousands and lakhs of youths standing behind him," thundered Ajay Sharma, a district-level Congress official from Haryana.

Sharma wasn't wearing the cap but Kamlesh Rathi, an activist from his home state, was. "It's our way of showing allegiance to Rahulji whom we want to see as the next Prime Minister," the young man from Rohtak said.

A branding expert said copying an opponent's idea reflected poor taste.

"I am against mimicking a rival's brand idea like this. I am sure Rahul Gandhi or other senior party leaders would not have known about this and would not have approved of this had their opinion been sought," said Amitav Avasthi, a brand analyst associated with a leading event management company.

"Some activists down the ranks would have thought of following a tagline like this, which only turned out to be a poor joke."

The "I am Rahul" cap wearers, however, made up a tiny minority of the crowd, gathered from several heartland states. Many were seen poring over the pamphlets distributed by the party to explain its recent economic decisions, such as those on FDI in multi-brand retail and the fuel price hikes.

"After reading this, I am now more enlightened on these issues," said Suneeta Dahiya, a party worker from Haryana. She was immersed in explaining the Centre's decisions to a group of women from her village even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clarified the government's stand from the dais.

Dahiya and her fellow villagers had spent the night at Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda's bungalow. Many other party MPs and even ministers had opened the gates of their residences to Congress workers thronging the capital from far-off areas.

Many of the rallyists embarked on a dekko around the city as soon as the meeting got over. Some headed for the Red Fort or the Qutb Minar; many zipped off for a fun-ride on the Metro.

"This kind of crowd is unprecedented. It is not possible to frisk (a mandatory exercise) so many people; so we have given up," said a CISF guard at New Delhi Metro station, the Metro halt nearest to the rally ground.