Keeping the door open on a gathbandhan with Samajwadi Party and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress chief said his party will fight the Lok Sabha election with all its might, but refrained from spelling out the number of seats it would contest in the state.
Addressing party workers at the end of a grand roadshow with sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Lucknow, Rahul said, “Yahan gathbandhan bhi ladh raha hai. Aur maine saaf bola hai ki main Mayawati ji aur Akhilesh ji ka aadar karta hun, magar Congress party poore dum se ladegi, Congress party apni vichaar dhaara ke liye ladegi aur Congress party UP ko badalne ke liye ladegi (Grand alliance is also fighting in Uttar Pradesh. I have clearly said that I respect Mayawati ji and Akhilesh ji, but the Congress will fight with its full might, the Congress will fight for its ideology and to change UP).”
Priyanka Gandhi was the cynosure of many eyes with thousands of onlookers, including enthusiastic party workers, jostling to get a glimpse and capture the image of the 47-year-old beaming leader in their phones.
Rose petals were showered and marigold garlands tossed towards the brother-sister as their cavalcade embarked on a roughly 25-km-long road show, from the airport to the party headquarters as the duo exchanged brief pleasantries with some members of the crowd.
Curiously, Priyanka Gandhi did not address the crowd during the road show or at the Congress office thereafter. And it was Rahul who did the talking asserting that the party will “play on front foot”.
”Their (Priyanka and Scindia) aim is definitely the Lok Sabha elections, but also to bring a Congress government here (UP),” he said, adding “the Congress began its journey from Uttar Pradesh and it cannot remain weak in the state…Congress has to improve performance in UP in the LS polls and form government in the next assembly elections.”
Giving a sense what her entry means to the party workers in UP, where the party has been struggling electorally for years, posters showed Priyanka in ‘Durga Mata’ (Hindu Goddess) avatar riding a lion.
”Maa Durga ka roop behen Priyankaji (Sister Priyankaji is Maa Durga’s incarnation)”, said one poster, while some others highlighted her resemblance to Indira Gandhi, her grandmother.
Asking crowd to repeat his “chowkidar chor hai” (guard is the thief) barb against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Rafale jet deal, Rahul Gandhi alleged that the prime minister has “stolen” money from Uttar Pradesh and other states to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani.
At a number of places, the leaders atop the bus had to dodge overhead electric wires in the busy and congested commercial areas. They also had to change to an open jeep near the Novelty Cinema hall here.
At the end of the four-and-a-half hour roadshow, Rahul Gandhi addressed enthusiastic party workers at the state Congress office. Priyanka Gandhi also interacted with the state unit leaders at the party office.
The eastern UP, Priyanka Gandhi’s area of responsibility has Modi’s constituency Varanasi. The region is also seen as a stronghold of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
As Priyanka Gandhi’s road show was on, her husband Robert Vadra sent her his best wishes.
“My Best wishes to you P, on your new journey of working in Uttar Pradesh and serving the people of India. You have been my best friend, a perfect wife, and the best mother to our children. There is a very vindictive and vicious political atmosphere… But I know, it’s her duty to serve the people and now we hand her to the people of India. Please keep her safe,” he said.
A day before her maiden visit to Uttar Pradesh as Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi said that together with the people of the state she hopes to start a “new kind of politics” in which everyone will be a stakeholder.
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