In her first campaign trip outside Uttar Pradesh, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a roadshow in Southern Assam’s Silchar, currently represented by Congress MP Sushmita Dev, on Sunday. The campaign also marks Priyanka’s maiden trip to the Northeast.
The roadshow, which started at around 12.30 pm at Cachar Club, was attended by people from around Cachar district of Barak Valley. After passing through the town’s Central Road, Ambicapatty Point and Hospital Road, Priyanka concluded her rally in Rangirkhari point, where where she addressed the crowd at around 2.30 pm.
Criticising the BJP for what she said was the party’s bid to “destroy the Constitution of India”, Priyanka said: “The BJP manifesto has no space for different cultures and religions. They do not respect the Constitution. On the other hand, the Congress party respects the Constitution and focuses on real issues.”
The Silchar seat, one of the two Lok Sabha seats in Assam’s Barak Valley (other being Karimganj), is headed for a tough fight between the Congress and the BJP. The latter’s candidate Rajdeep Roy is taking on incumbent Dev in a seat that saw huge support for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which the BJP has been trying to push.
While the contentious Bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minority communities from three countries Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan saw widespread opposition in Assam and rest of the Northeast, the Hindu Bengalis of Barak valley supported the Bill.
The Congress has promised to scrap the Bill — which puts MP Dev on a sticky wicket in Barak Valley. “We might not support the Bill but we support citizenship for all communities as long as they are voters on 2014 list. We do not believe in excluding certain communities. That is our stand. That is what Sushmita Dev is saying too, and we agree with her,” said Gitashree Das, Congress general secretary of Karimganj District, who was present at the rally.
Priyanka also hit out at BJP’s rule under PM Modi. “In the past few months, I have met teachers, farmers, labourers, youths and women. Youths are unemployed. The farmers are sad. The women do not feel safe,” said Priyanka.
Over 50,000 people attended the rally. Alimuddin Choudhry, 62, who came from a village 15km away from Silchar said, “We have always voted for Congress. They do not discriminate on the basis of religion. I even got to shake Priyanka Gandhi’s hand. This has made me very happy.”
Priyanka also praised MP Dev, who is also Mahila Congress president, likening her to her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi. “She resembles my grandmother — like her, she has the same fighting spirit,” she said.
Silchar will vote in the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 18.