Rupesh Kumar reports from Madurai…
Day 1, 28th June 2008.
A group of 6 went visiting the Finance minister at his M. P. office in Karaikudi. Earlier, we were supposed to have a demonstration outside his office in the headquarters of his Lok Sabha constituency in Sivagangai. But we learnt that he works out of his office in Karaikudi, a nearby town and his native place. We had learnt about his visit to Karaikudi just an evening before. We reached Karaikudi by 11.30 and reached his office by 13.00 after waiting for a few more friends to join us as their bus was delayed at Madurai.
By around 13.00, 7 of us walked into the MPs office and enquired about his availability throughout the day and we were informed that he is busy opening a series of banks ( which he does once a month at his constituency, development of a small town i suppose) in the surrounding areas and will be free only between 8 PM and will meet people only from 6 Am to 8 Am the next morning. On his itinerary, we noticed that he was leaving for Delhi from Madurai by air and decided to confront him at the airport.
Day 2, 29th June 2008.
Eight of us assembled at a library near the airport. We had earlier received confirmation about the FM leaving home and reaching here by around 13.45. So we decided to be at the airport by 13.25 and started walking towards the airport, a 2 Km walk from the library.
Madurai Airport has two lobbies, one for arrival and the other departure. No one is allowed inside the departure lounge without a valid ticket or authorisation. Right outside the departure lobby, we noticed a large crowd of party cadre waiting for his arrival. Karuna (an NBA activist and researcher from Madurai) and I were the first to reach the lobby. Just as we reached the lobby, we noticed a convoy of cars entering the airport and knew it was the Finance Minister. We took out our petition and ran towards the car. Karuna is fair skinned, and was able to reach his car without any objection from his hangers-on. On seeing her and hearing her seek his attention, Chidambaram immediately turned around curiously. By this time, our other friends had also reached the car. Karuna handed over the petition and said that the Bhopalis have been in Delhi for more than 110 days, and urged him to do something about it. He was momentarily shaken.
Clearly, the last thing he expected from a motley bunch such as us, in such an unlikely place as the Madurai airport, was a word about Bhopal. He took the petition and walked away without saying a word to the main lobby, where he stopped again to address his party men.