Rahul Gandhi snubs Sena, takes Mumbai local

Rahul Gandhi snubs Sena, takes Mumbai local

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Mumbai:  When in Mumbai, Rahul Gandhi decided to do as Mumbai does.

So, in a last-minute decision that undoubtedly left his security men in a cold sweat, Gandhi decided to take local trains instead of the helicopter that was on stand-by for him. He travelled both first and second class, and bought tickets that were paid for by a quick stop at an ATM on his way to Andheri station. (Read & Watch: Gandhi boards local train, drops helicopter plan) | (Exclusive: Rahul on board)

Gandhi was scheduled to greet students in Vile Parle in North Mumbai, and then fly in a chopper to Ghatkopar to meet the residents of a Dalit slum. The scheduled four-hour trip to Mumbai had these parts of the city swamped with policemen in the morning. The concern for the police and the Maharashtra government was the Shiv Sena's order to its workers to greet Gandhi with black flags. (Read: Black flags for Rahul Gandhi)

The Sena has declared war against Gandhi since he said in Bihar that India belongs to all Indians and that commandoes from Bihar and UP fought to save Mumbai during 26/11. (Read and watch: Rahul says Mumbai belongs to all Indians)

After being greeted by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan upon landing in Mumbai, Gandhi travelled in a convoy to Bhaidas Hall in Vile Parle to meet students. (Read & Watch: Students describe meeting with Gandhi)

An ambulance accompanied the convoy, bomb disposal squads were on stand -by, and 500 policemen flanked the one-kilometre stretch from the helipad to the venue. (Tight security for Rahul's visit to Mumbai)

Gandhi looked relaxed as he entered the venue. After more than an hour, he emerged smiling and got into his car. The media followed, perplexed, as Gandhi then stopped at a Bank of India branch. Political analysts say this was the young Gandhi's way of showing the Sena and the city that he wasn't fazed by the Sena's threats. Sources in the Congress say Gandhi read local papers in his car; the headlines related to his visit prompted a change of heart and mind. (Watch: Rahul makes unscheduled visit to ATM)

And then Gandhi swung into 'Catch Me If You Can mode'. Reporters raced to keep up with him as he headed to the Andheri station. There, he boarded the second-class compartment on a Churchgate-bound train. He changed trains at the Dadar station to ride the 1.42 Kalyan fast train in first-class and then arrived at Platform Number One of the Ghatkopar Station. (Read & Watch: Gandhi boards local train, drops helicopter plan)

''We could not believe just a tall leader could travel with us, interact with us,'' said Rakesh Shirke, a Marathi film director who travelled with Gandhi. Another person in the same compartment was less starry-eyed. ''It's a stunt. But it felt good that he travelled in the aam aadmi's means of transport,'' he said.

Sources tell NDTV that Gandhi's revised travel plans worried both his own security and the local railway police, already nervous about terror alerts for suburban railway lines. (Read: Rahul's security surprised, worried by train rides)

At Ghatkopar, Gandhi garlanded a statue of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar and met residents of the Ramabai Nagar slum.

Through the day, close to 60 Shiv Sainiks were taken into preventive custody (Read & Watch: Sena, police clash before Rahul's visit)

The Sena's Uddhav Thackeray tried to have the last word, saying, "They treat Mumbai like an ATM, collect money from here and then go elsewhere." (Watch: Rahul must not repeat such comments: Uddhav to NDTV) | (Read: Uddhav Thackeray reacts to Rahul's visit)

A statement that summed up what the Sena was desperate to avoid - its roar reduced to a whimper by a leader of whom Bal Thackeray said earlier this week: 'The Prince Has Sprouted Wings'. (Read: Latest round in Thackerays vs Rahul Gandhi)

This round to Gandhi in the war with the Sena.

In Pics: Rahul Gandhi in Mumbai

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