VARANASI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday launched her party’s poll campaign for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with a roadshow in PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi.
This is the third major programme of the party in Uttar Pradesh in the past few days after “27 saal-UP behal” Delhi-Kanpur bus yatra and Rahul Gandhi’s interactive session with booth level workers in Lucknow.
Thousands of Congress supporters and workers took part in the roadshow from the Circuit House to Englishiya Line, a distance of about eight kilometres.
The march began with Gandhi garlanding the statue of B R Ambedkar at the Circuit House and the marchers criss-crossed lanes and bylanes of the temple town.
Gandhi, who was initially travelling in a car and later moved to a vehicle with open sunroof, waved at the crowd which cheered and raised slogans against the Modi government.
She came out of her vehicle several times to accept the greetings of the cheering supporters, including groups of Muslim women. As the road show passed through several localities, rose petals were showered on Gandhi and her cavalcade from adjoining buildings.
Earlier, Sonia arrived in Varanasi to a rousing reception by party workers.
Her cavalcade was accompanied by 5,000 strong contingent of motorcyclists from Lal Bahadur Shastri Babatpur airport to the circuit house.
Huge banners and buntings have been put up by party to make the roadshow successful and launch the poll campaign in the eastern region of the poll-bound state.
The BJP did not fare very well in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh in the last assembly election and Congress hopes to take advantage make inroads.
Her choice of starting the campaign from Varanasi for the Assembly elections scheduled next year is significant given the fact that it sends a signal that Congress is daring Modi on his home turf.
This is Sonia Gandhi’s first visit to Varanasi after Modi became the Prime Minister.
She is accompanied by Sheila Dikshit, who is the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the state, AICC general secretary Gulam Nabi Azad, UPCC chief Raj Babbar, senior party leaders Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh.
Congress has launched a campaign “dard-e-banaras” to highlight lack of development in Varanasi, which Modi is representing for over two years in the Lok Sabha.
Congress has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh for 27 years and is projecting that the state has gone from bad to worse in last 27 years through a campaign called “27 saal UP behal”.
Varanasi is a key place in eastern Uttar Pradesh having some 160 of the 403 constituencies in the state.
Congress had only won two seats-Amethi and Rae Bareli in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Raj Babbar hopes for a ‘miracle’ in UP
Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar has expressed hope that there will be a “miracle” in favour of his party in the upcoming assembly election in the state.
“The people of Uttar Pradesh have always been springing surprises – be it 2004, 2007, 2012 or 2017 – this time they are going to do a miracle in favour of Congress,” he said.
Responding to questions from mediapersons if road shows and other programmes would help the party at the hustings, he said, “Rest assured … we are among the people … Sonia is here to have darshan and take blessings of Baba Vishwanath in this holy month of Shravan.”
The UP Assembly elections outcome will also set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor has been roped in by Congress to help and assist the UPCC in the Assembly polls. Kishore was earlier strategist of Modi in Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar in Bihar Assembly polls