The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amethi erupts in Priyanka cry

Amethi, Jan. 18: Despite the freezing cold, Sonia’s face glowed with the warmth of their welcome as the Congress president bade farewell to the people of her Lok Sabha constituency today at the end of a two-day visit.

However, though Sonia returned assured of their loyalty, she could not have missed their sense of urgency to see daughter Priyanka enter politics.

“Bring Priyanka into politics and make Sonia the Prime Minister” was the theme of their demand — plastered all over the towns of Rae Bareli and Sultanpur districts that form part of Amethi Lok Sabha constituency.

The point was hammered home by Congress members wherever she went. The crowds gathered along the route said it through slogans. Jagdishpur’s Congress MLA, Ram Sevak, broke down on the dais while urging Sonia to make the announcement.

“Give Priyanka Gandhi to lead us and we’ll change the political map of India and make you the Prime Minister by the end of 2003,” assured Sultanpur’s Youth Congress chief Yogendra Mishra.

The Congress president looked pleased but refused to commit herself. Neither did she refer to the controversy over renaming of Amethi district as Chhatrapati Sahuji Nagar.

It was Sonia’s first visit to Amethi after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati turned her attention to this Nehru-Gandhi family stronghold. At her December 12 Sawdhan Rally, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader had announced the creation of a separate district of Amethi and named it after the social reformer. The Congress chief steered clear of the controversy.

However, Mayavati appeared to be on her mind when she complimented the Amethi youth for rebuilding the house of Ram Bhajan, a Punnupur Dalit, and attacked the state government on corruption and maladministration.

“What the Congress members have done in Punnupur reflects the party’s tradition of reconstruction. It is the best tribute that you could have paid to the late Rajiv Gandhi,” she said at a Yuva Jagrati Sammelan at Gauriganj where a large crowd waited for her last night in the biting cold.

Mayavati had dismissed Priyanka’s move to rebuild the house at the same site as a “political gimmick”. She had stopped Congress members from rebuilding the house at the same site and asked the district administration to issue prohibitory orders on the grounds that the land belonged to the Thakur who had demolished the house.

Mayavati had hurriedly organised a rally in Amethi, where she scoffed at Gandhi family’s “pretentious championing of the Dalit cause” and announced that the new district will be named after the Dalit icon.

When local Congress members bought land on the adjoining site and started rebuilding the house, the BSP tried to entice Ram Bhajan into refusing the gift. But the Dalit said he would accept the house.

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