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Since 1st March, 1999
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Priyanka visits fire-hit Amethi
Priyanka Gandhi with villagers of Gazanpur, Amethi, where a fire had gutted around 200 houses
recently, during a visit to that area on Tuesday to distribute essential commodities. (PTI)

Asandeepur (Amethi), April 15: On her first visit to Amethi after chief minister Mayavati opened a front against her, Priyanka Gandhi today clearly indicated she would not be cowed down by the Bahujan Samaj Party leader.

“They are my people and I share their joys and grievances. No power on earth can stop this,” Priyanka said during her visit to three Amethi villages recently devastated by fires.

The daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi emphasised that unlike Mayavati, she did not treat people as votebanks.

“If she (Mayavati) really cared for the people, she or someone from her government must have visited these fire-ravaged villages,” she said as she went door to door in Salagajanpur, Asandeepur and Loshanpur. More than 350 houses in these villages were gutted.

Priyanka imparted a personal touch to her interactions with the villagers like before when she had got Dalit Ram Bhajan’s house in Punnupur, razed by a Thakur landowner, built through shramdan.

She was keen to show she had not come to Amethi to play politics and the villagers returned the gesture. “Now that you have come, we have forgotten all our troubles,” Raghoram of Gajanpur said.

Though Priyanka’s daylong visit was touted to be personal, state Congressmen hoped it would be the precursor to her political debut, now that the Lok Sabha polls were approaching.

“Lead us in Uttar Pradesh and we’ll make Sonia the country’s next Prime Minister” was the Congress refrain wherever Priyanka went.

She acknowledged that party workers across the country wanted her to enter politics. But she parried reporters’ queries with a simple: “Let the time come and we’ll know.”

Priyanka refused to react to speculations about her plans to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Amethi in place of her mother. “Just now, it’s a visit to find out how the people’s problems can be solved. My relation with the people of Amethi is old and the election is far off,” she said.

She also evaded a clear comment on the Mayavati government’s campaign against the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. “I am not a full-blooded politician, but I think that the political arena should not be converted into an arena for settling personal scores.”

The district administration tried to ignore Priyanka’s visit, apparently on the chief minister’s orders. Officials, however, had a tough time when they tried to initiate relief measures in all three fire-ravaged villages after Priyanka had passed through.

“Where were you till now'” angry villagers asked an official who visited Asandeepur three hours after Priyanka left. The villagers refused the government largesse, saying “now that our daughter Priyanka is with us, we don’t need you”.

For Amethi Congressmen, still reeling from the shock defeat in the recent Gauriganj bypolls, Priyanka appeared to be the only ray of hope.

“If she…leads Congressmen in Uttar Pradesh, we can stage a comeback and propel Sonia to the Prime Minister’s post after the next elections. But if she hedges, it’s the end of the road for us in the country’s most populous state,” Mohammed Raza, a youth Congress worker from Jayas, said.

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