Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi created quite a buzz on Thursday (June 8) after being detained while trying to sneak into trouble-torn Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh. He was on his way to meet the kin of the five protesters killed during the ongoing farmers’ protest in one of the opium-growing districts of the state.
The Nehru-Gandhi scion may have hogged momentary limelight with his theatrics, but his attempt at deriving political mileage out of his failed attempt to visit Mandsaur may not fructify.
On June 6 - the day the five farmers were killed in police firing - the Congress announced that Gandhi would visit Mandsaur.
The announcement came after its working committee (CWC) meeting over a host of issues, including the presidential election.
Public property set on fire in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, after six farmers were killed.
However, the next day, the Madhya Pradesh government denied permission to Gandhi’s aircraft to land in the state. It was a foregone conclusion that Gandhi would resort to his Bhatta-Parsaul tactics to steal some media attention. Bhatta and Parsaul are twin villages in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh.
And Gandhi did exactly that. He tried to sneak into Mandsaur via Rajasthan to meet the family members of the farmers who were killed in the police firing.
Riding on a motorcycle, he tried to enter MP. However, he and other party leaders were arrested at Neemuch on Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border. This was not the first time that Gandhi, who is likely to replace his mother as the Congress president in October, indulged in such histrionics.
In fact, it was a pale shadow of Gandhi’s Bhatta-Parsaul moment of May 2011.
In Bhatta-Parsaul, four protesters and two policemen had died in a pitched battle between the security forces and agitating farmers. Gandhi wished to show solidarity with the farmers who were agitating for higher compensation for land acquired for the 156-km Yamuna Expressway, linking New Delhi with Agra.
The then Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh had barred politicians and outsiders from entering the state, Gandhi slipped into the village early morning, riding on a motorbike. He spent nearly 18 hours with the villagers before getting arrested.
Gandhi's efforts hardly made an impact on elections which were held thereafter, particularly in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress did not put up a decent show in the 2013 Assembly elections. Mayawati’s BSP lost to Samajwadi Party paving the way for Akhilesh Yadav to be crowned as the chief minister.
The Congress did not get the farmers’ support even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The then ruling party performed its worst ever and its number dipped to lowest ever figure of 44 out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Doing politics over the dead is sometimes dubbed as “vulture politics” or “vulture tourism”.
But this form of politics has hardly benefitted either the Congress, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the Left.
Leaders of all parties, including the BJP, have been descending on places where deaths of farmers, Dalits, Muslims or members of the Scheduled Caste (SC) category have taken place under controversial circumstances.
They have sought to politicise such deaths – be it of Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula or Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri – but to no avail.
Finally, it has generally been the BJP which has walked away with victory in crucial elections, like in UP.
Just like the Congress didn't benefit much from Gandhi’s visit to Bhatta-Parsaul in 2011, the party may hardly get any advantage of his failed visit to Mandsaur in the forthcoming 2018 MP Assembly elections.
In a similar farmers’ protest, 18 protesters were killed in police firing in Multai of Betul district in January 1998.
In the Assembly elections, which were held in November the same year, Congress’s Digvijaya Singh had won again.
Similarly, Shivraj Singh Chouhan may lead the BJP to victory a third time since he assumed the CM’s post in November 2005.
Gandhi’s efforts to turn the fortunes of his party in MP may again come to nought.