Mumbai: In an open dare to the Shiv Sena for protesting his visit, Rahul Gandhi on Friday decided to travel by a local train in Mumbai.
Discarding security considerations as well as a waiting helicopter, Rahul hopped into a local train to travel from Andheri to Ghatkopar, much to the delight of his co-passengers in the first class compartment.
Maximising the massive public response to his sudden Mumbai trip in the wake of Shiv Sena threats to "keep off Maharashtra", the Congress general secretary made a last minute change in his itinerary to travel from Vile Parle in western suburbs to his second engagement at Ghatkopar in the eastern suburbs.
From Bhaidas Auditorium at Juhu (in Vile Parle), Rahul Gandhi`s motorcade zoomed towards the Andheri railway station, about two kilometres away, taking most people by surprise. As per the original plans, he was scheduled to fly in a helicopter.
En route, he was seen standing on the footboard of his SUV and waving to the people lined going about their routine and even shaking hands with some.
Within minutes, he reached Andheri to board a Western Railway (WR) suburban train to Dadar station in the southern direction. He travelled on the Virar-Dadar fast train in a second class compartment along with the general public, and got off 15 minutes later around 1.15 pm at Dadar.
From there he boarded a suburban Central Railway (CR) local train to reach Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Ghatkopar.
All the three stations - Andheri, Dadar and Ghatkopar - are among the most congested railway stations in the Mumbai suburban network. It is usually a nightmare even for the most diehard Mumbaikars to alight or board from trains at these stations "conquered" by Rahul Gandhi, who is in Mumbai for a short four-hour visit after which he leaves for Pondicherry.
One of his co-passengers Ashok told zeenews about his interaction with Rahul. “It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.
He added,” I feel Rahul is a progressive person.”
Officials of both the WR and CR claimed ignorance of the Congress leader`s travel plans and said they were not informed about it by his security.
After reaching Ghatkopar he headed to the Ambedkar colony where he along with Ashok Chavan garlanded a statue of Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Ambedkar and then proceeded to interact with slum youth.
Shiv Sena is organising black flag demonstrations against him for his "Mumbai for all Indians" remark. But their protests have been centred around his meeting venues.
And, with Rahul travelling in a local train the Shiv Sainiks are clearly stumped.
With IANS inputs