Congress general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Monday officially kickstarted the party’s campaign in the state on a spiritual note from Manaiya Ghat along river Ganga, offering prayers at the Sangam and participating in “arti” at the famous Hanuman temple in Prayagraj, before embarking on her 100-kilometre river journey.
The 47-year-old leader, clad in a green cotton sari, interacted with a wide cross-section of people, including students, at the beginning her three-day visit to eastern region of the state that will culminate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi.
Taking a dig at the PM, the Congress general secretary said rich people have “chowkidars” and not the farmers, who have to guard their own fields. Asking the people to “wake-up and become aware” of their rights, Priyanka said that neither the government nor the country is anyone’s “jageer” (fiefdom) and hence no one should be made to beg for their rights. Without taking Modi’s name, she asked whether the promises made by one, who has the government in the country and talked of providing jobs and giving Rs 15 lakh to each account, have been fulfilled.
BJP rebel MP Savitri Bai Phule, now Congress candidate from Bahraich, Congress leader Pramod Tiwari, Tiwari’s daughter and Congress MLA Aradhna Mishra and Congress Legislature Party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s representative in Rae Bareli, Kishori Lal Sharma, accompanied Priyanka. The entourage stopped at four ghats in Prayagraj before ending Day 1 at Sitamamarhi, another religious destination, where she was greeted with religious chantings.
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On BSP chief Mayawati’s charge that the Congress was creating confusion, Priyanka said “the aim is to defeat BJP, which is running anti-people and anti-women government” and hence no one should be angry.
At Sirsa Ghat, Priyanka got down from the boat to meet people and walked in the local market. Addressing a small gathering near the Ghat under the watchful eyes of SPG personnel escorting her, she said, “Main bhi ghar baidh sakti thi. Main aaj kyon ayi hun… kyonki desh sankat mein hai.desh ka samvidhan sankat mein hai… (I could have also sat at home. But why have I come today… because the country is in distress, the system is in distress).”
“Main keh rahi hun jago… jagruk bano… yeh jitney mudde hain dharma ke, jaat paat ke mudde isliye udhaye jate hain kyonki apka vikas nahi ho raha hai… sarkar ko vikas karna chahiye. Apki samasyaon ko suljhana chahiye… (I am asking you to wake up, to become aware. The issues over religion and caste are raised because you are not developed. It is the responsibility of the government to bring development and solve your problems).” she said.
Telling people that they have rights under a democracy, which they should exercise, Priyanka asked them with a smile, “Humare Pradhan Mantri yahan aaye the? (Did our Prime Minister come here?).” When the people responded with “nahi” (no), she said with a smile, “Lekin Puri duniya mein to ghum aaye… (But he toured the entire country…).”
Asking people to change the habit of giving a stage at a higher level to the leaders and sitting at a lower level, Priyanka said, “Iss adat ko badaliye… warna apka vikas nahi hoga. lok tantra mein apke adhikar hote hai…(change this habit, else your development won’t happen… in a democracy, you have the power).”
Seeking support for her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka said the big decision is theirs on their own future as well as the welfare of the country. “Aane wale chunao mein Rahul ji ko unke hath majboot banayenge to khud dekhenge… Apka vikas hoga.. (In the upcoming elections, if you strengthen the hands of Rahul, your development will come),” she said adding how the Congress governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh waived farmers’ loans in 10 days of coming to power.
Social media reach
Priyanka, who reached Prayagraj late on Sunday and stayed at Swaraj Bhawan, the ancestral home of Nehru family, shared a picture of a room on Twitter, and remembered her grandmother Indira Gandhi. She wrote, “At night my grandmother used to tell me the stories of Joan of Arc. Even now her voice is echoing in my heart. She used to say ‘Be fearless, all will be well’.”
On Monday, she shared a photograph of students from Allahabad University, who sat with her on the boat and wrote, “Loved sharing my journey with these intelligent, dynamic young women from Allahabad University this morning. I met so many talented students today — they deserve a future to realise their hopes and dreams.”
Later, at Dumdumma Ghat, Priyanka said how the students told her that their voice was suppressed. On her way, she waived at the people standing on the river-side and asked them how were they able to recognise her from a distance.
‘56-inch chest but weak government’
Later in the day at Sitamarhi in Bhadohi district, Priyanka said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is claiming to be a strong leader with a 56-inch chest, he should take strong decisions. Terming the present government as “durbal sarkar” (weak government), Priyanka said, “Aap kehte hain Shaktiman hai, bahut bade neta hain.. aap kehte hain aapka chappan inch ka seena hai.to agar itne mahan hain, itne shaktiman hain to dradh nishchaya kyon nahi le sakte… (You are saying you are strong and powerful leader… you say you have a 56-inch chest… if you are so strong, why can’t you take strong decisions,” she asked, adding, “Yeh aapki durbalta hai, yeh ek durbal sarkar hai isko pehchaniye… Jo prabal sarkar hoti hai wo kabhi janta ko nahi dabati… (This is your weakness, this is a weak government… you should recognise that. An efficient government will not trouble people…).”
Day of trial and errors
Day 1 of the river route campaign by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra turned out to be of trial and errors for the Congress as well as journalists. While one boat was readied for Priyanka who started her campaign from Manaiya Ghat about two hours behind schedule, there was confusion after she sat on the boat. Initially, Congress leaders said they were not sure whether another boat would be allowed or not but once Priyanka’s boat was about to leave, leaders on another boat started inviting other leaders and media persons, triggering a rush. As soon as Priyanka Gandhi’s boat, which had an air-conditioned room, a wash-room and a sitting area on the roof, left, journalists rushed towards the other boat, which started tilting. Boatmen rushed to ask people to get off the vessel and later it resumed journey. However, after travelling a few metres, the boat was stuck in the middle of the river. The Congress leaders and journalists were brought back in smaller boats to the Manaiya Ghat from where they travelled to Priyanka’s next stop by road. “This is new for everyone. We are learning from our mistakes and as the yatra moves ahead, we will make it better,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity, while another leader said that officially no boat was arranged for anyone else.
Rahul: Chowkidar caught stealing, trying to make whole country chowkidar
Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sought votes in the 2014 elections to serve as “chowkidar” (watchman) of the country, is now making chowkidars of the whole of India after “he has been caught stealing”.
Speaking at a rally in Kalaburagi, Karnataka, he said, “The chowkidar has been caught stealing and as soon as he is caught stealing, the chowkidar says the whole of India are chowkidars. Before he was caught, the whole of India were not chowkidars and only Modi was chowkidar.” Rahul was referring to BJP leaders and supporters designating themselves as chowkidars on social media.
“Anil Ambani and Adani will be helped by one chowkidar, but when the robbery is detected then he tries to make the whole country chowkidars,” he said. —ENS