IN WHAT will be her first visit to the city in nearly a decade, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to be in Varanasi on Tuesday and launch the party’s campaign for next year’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections with what Congress leaders claim will be a massive road show.
In Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Sonia is expected to target the development claims of both the NDA government at the Centre and the Samajwadi Party dispensation in the state.
Ahead of the event, senior party leaders such as UP chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit, state unit president Raj Babbar, campaign in-charge Sanjay Sinh, along with former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Sriprakash Jaiswal, reached Varanasi Monday to supervise preparations. Sonia’s roadshow will come four days after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met party workers in Lucknow on Friday and launched a scathing attack on both the Modi government and the Akhilesh Yadav administration.
According to sources, Sonia’s roadshow is part of the party’s plans to boost worker morale in the state, especially in eastern UP. The Congress president, who did not campaign in Varanasi during the Lok Sabha elections, will especially woo the Dalit and Brahmin communities, along with the weavers’ community, which has a significant presence in the city, party leaders said.
Accordingly, she will reportedly start the roadshow by garlanding the statue of B R Ambedkar near the Circuit House and end it by garlanding the statue of late Congress leader Kamla Pati Tripathi near Englishiya Crossing, where she will also address the crowd, Congress leaders said.
According to party leaders, she will garland the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Sardar Patel on her way, and will visit Kashi Vishwanath temple afterwards.
The party, sources said, has mobilised crowd from neighbouring districts for the roadshow. It will cover Varuna bridge, Nadesar, Chauka Ghat, Peeli Kothi (which has a large population of weavers), Visheshwarganj (populated by the trader community), Maidagin, Lahurabir and Mandaiya before reaching Englishiya Crossing in the Cantonment area.
“The party will hold an unprecedented show of strength. It has been planned in a way that Sonia Gandhi covers different sections of the society,” Varanasi district Congress president Prajanath Sharma said.
While the party’s social media team in Delhi is running a campaign called “Dard-e-Banaras” for the last 15 days, uploading videos made by professionals on problems faced by weavers, boatmen and fishermen, Dikshit on Monday promised a special package for eastern UP — or “Poorvanchal” — if the Congress is voted to power in the state.
The senior Congress leaders who reached Varanasi today raised issued such as cleaning of the Ganga, the deteriorating condition of the weaver community, smart-city plans for Varanasi, claims to turn it into Kyoto, poor electricity supply, non-payment of dues of farmers, among others.
Criticising the Prime Minister on the state of the Ganga, UP Congress president Raj Babbar said even though Modi referred to the river as his “Mother” during the Lok Sabha poll campaign, little has been done to clean it since.
Sources said Salman Khurshid has been made the party’s in-charge for the Varanasi event.
Meanwhile, some Congress workers today circulated photographs of waterlogging near Modi’s constituency office in the city.