Rahul charms flood-hit Leh, extends healing touch

Rahul charms flood-hit Leh, extends healing touch New Delhi/Leh: Reaching out to the victims of cloudburst here, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today promised them all possible help and lauded the security forces for their massive relief and rehabilitation effort.

Rahul, who arrived a day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scheduled visit here, took stock of the situation in the worst-affected Choglamsar where numerous houses were buried under the slush following the cloudburst on August 5 night.

"The Prime Minister is coming tomorrow. Tell him about the shortcomings freely. Don't be afraid," the 40-year-old Congress leader, dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, told the victims who have taken shelter at a relief camp after they narrated to him their problems.

He said he will also convey their difficulties to the Prime Minister and will do everything possible to provide them all necessary help.

During the five-hour visit, Rahul, who accompanied Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju, visited a military hospital at Leh, where he interacted with patients who had sustained injuries during the calamity.

Rahul and the minister, who reached here by a special aircraft at about 8:30 AM, made an aerial survey of the affected areas of the district.

The Congress general secretary also stopped at the ITBP campus here where he praised the work done by security forces and later visited a relief camp run by the Border Roads Organisation.

Rahul was also accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister and local MLA Nawang Rigzin Zora and Chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chering Dorjay.

"I am very happy that he came here and spoke to us. I believe that he will help us as promised," said Jigmat Yangcham, a first year psychology student of Leizer Joldan Memorial College said.

Asked whether she felt happy about meeting Rahul the politician or Rahul as a person she said "both".

Yangcham, who was crying when she first spoke to Rahul was all smiles by the time he left.

He sat on the plain dusty ground and listened to the villagers pouring their hearts out. He went under the barricades to visit a tent set up for the victims.

At times, he could be seen having an intense conversation with children. He even spoke in English to a child and patted his head when the child said he wants to be a teacher when he grows up.

Sporting a stubble, Rahul enthralled them with his plain speaking and rapport building skills.

"He is just like any of us. Remove the security and he looks like any other regular person," said Taki, a Taxi driver who waited for over an hour to catch a glimpse of the Congress leader.

While Rahul shied away from the media, repeated requests for a quick interaction was met with only a smile.