Mumbai, Feb.5: In a snub to Shiv Sena, Rahul Gandhi hopped on to two suburban trains on Friday throwing caution to wind in the wake of security threat to make a last minute detour through Sena bastions during his brief visit to this metropolis.
With Bal Thackeray issuing a diktat to his party cadres to greet the "Italian Prince" with black flags to mark the party’s protest against his "Mumbai for all" remarks, the defiant Congress general secretary cocked a snook at the Sena supremo when he jettisoned plans to go to a slum in Ghatkopar by a waiting helicopter for his second and final engagement in the city.
Unfazed by the Sena threat and in a gesture loaded with symbolism, Rahul, who was on his way from suburban Vile Parle to Ghatkopar after addressing college students abruptly disembarked from his motorcade outside Andheri railway station of Western Railway line and got in a Dadar-bound local train.
He travelled on the Virar-Dadar fast train in a second class compartment along with the general public much to their delight but sending security personnel in a tizzy. He got off 15 minutes later around 1.15 p.m. at Dadar.
At Dadar railway station, Rahul crossed a bridge to come to the central line from where he took a train to Ghatkopar.
He got into a first class coach of the Kalyan-bound to go to Ghatkopar which is four stations away, a railway official said.
Rahul also signed autographs for starry eyed passengers who gushed at seeing him in their company. After a four-hour visit, Rahul left for Puducherry.
The scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family did not not lose an opportunity to send a loud and clear message to the Shiv Sena warning people here against attempts to divide them on communal and linguistic basis.
Sena corporator, Rajul Patel, and two others were arrested after they attempted to enter through the security posts at Bhaidas Hall in suburban Vile Parle, police said.
Tight security measures are in place after Sena chief Bal Thackeray asked his partymen yesterday to greet the Congress leader with black flags to protest his remarks on Mumbai.
Heavy security has been deployed at the venue in Ghatkopar where Gandhi is scheduled to visit later in the day. Shops in the area remained closed and the cops rounded up several trouble makers last night as a preventive measure.
According to reports, this is Rahul’s first visit to the financial capital after he became the AICC General Secretary.
Hundreds of policemen are on guard at Vile Parle railway station, bus stops and the road leading to the venue.
The entire road leading to the venue and across the city was dotted with posters that read - ’Fight an election, become a leader.’
Gandhi will be leaving for Pondicherry at 2.30pm after his half-day meet in Mumbai. He is also scheduled to inaugurate a Rs two crore stadium named after his father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, on the Puducherry University premises. The interaction programme is organised by National Students Union of India