Naming a chief ministerial candidate, early announcement of other candidates and handing over the charge of poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh to Priyanka Gandhi were some of the key suggestions that Congress workers made to election strategist Prashant Kishor’s teams that camped for two days in politically crucial districts of Varanasi, Allahabad and Gorakhpur.
In Varanasi, the workers demanded that the charge of the poll campaign in the state should be handed over to Priyanka Gandhi. Some workers also suggested that local party MLA Ajay Rai should be made to campaign across the state to “speak against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and how he was made victim of BJP’s politics of vengeance”.
Rai, who had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls against Modi from Varanasi in 2014, spent nearly seven months in jail before being released earlier this month. He was arrested in connection with the violence during ‘pratikar’ rally organised in protest against alleged police atrocities during the immersion of Lord Ganesha idols in Varanasi in October last year. Police had invoked the stringent National Security Act against him.
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Speaking to The Indian Express, Praja Nath Sharma, Congress’ Varanasi president, said, “Majority of the workers were in favour of announcing the chief ministerial candidate. They said that we need a strong face before we start campaigning for the polls. Some also requested that we announce the candidates early, others demanded that only hardcore party workers should be chosen as candidates.”
Sources reported a “scuffle” between two groups of youth wing leaders outside the meeting hall. One of the groups even called the police. However, senior leaders intervened to resolve the issue, sources added.
When asked, Sharma said that the issue was resolved and no police complaint was lodged.
In Gorakhpur, considered a stronghold of BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, workers demanded measures to counter “BJP’s communalism”. “It was suggested that we strongly project ourselves as a secular party, which believes in taking both Hindus and Muslims along and is not inclined towards any particular side,” Gorakhpur district president Sayed Jamal Ahmed said.
“Among various suggestions, most leaders felt that we should have a face for the election with whom people can associate. Large number of leaders agreed to the demand for a CM candidate,” he added.
Sources informed that party leaders were told that about 10,000 newly identified workers — about 20 from each Assembly segment in the state — will be called for a special training programme either in Lucknow or in Allahabad.
From Thursday onwards, the teams would camp in Deoria, Chandauli and Kaushambi districts for next two days.
A senior party leader informed that during these visits, the teams are being divided in two groups. One group takes feedback from workers at the district office including holding different sessions with district and city units, block units, frontal organisations like youth wing, NSUI and Mahila Congress. The other group visits houses of old Congressmen who have been associated with party for long but have disassociated themselves in the recent times. These people are asked to contribute by telling youngsters about the Congress’ contribution.