The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lips sealed, Rahul sews up Varanasi

Varanasi, April 23: Rahul Gandhi came, he conquered but did not speak.

Varanasi, once upon a time a Congress stronghold, was thrown out of gear as people surged to catch a glimpse of the “waris” (heir apparent) of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Not only roads, even rooftops were crowded all along the 20-km stretch of his roadshow.

Rahul, initially waving from inside the car, got out and sat on the roof after a while.

The journey started from the police lines helipad. Accompanied by a fleet of cars, Rahul headed to a gurdwara, where he offered ardas (prayer) and was welcomed with a saropa.

In the Muslim-dominated Pilikothi area, surging crowds took the SPG personnel by surprise when they lifted Rahul up in their arms. He was also gifted a shawl.

Looking like his father Rajiv Gandhi in white kurta-pyjama, Rahul smiled, met people, shook hands and spent a few hours in the city but did not utter a word.

Once a fortress of the Congress, Varanasi, better known as Kashi, had turned into a BJP bastion in the last decade-and-a-half, especially since the death of the last Congress icon from the region, Kamlapati Tripathi.

Today, the Congress went all out to welcome a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The city was awash in garlands and colour.

The travel plan was chalked out in a way to project the party’s inclusive face, giving equal time to areas dominated by the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu population.

Safaqat Hussain, a retired government employee, had seen a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family in the city after a long time. “He has the charisma to carry on the legacy.” But he was not sure how far it would work in this election.

Congress candidate Rajesh Mishra, who is taking on the BJP’s Shankar Prasad Jaiswal, must be hoping the crowds he saw today will convert into votes. People from all walks of life — from the poor to the rich and the young to the old — were out on the streets.

Narendra Singh, a first-time voter, said: “I have come to see the legacy of the family.… I don’t know how much would it work for the party, still it’s the attraction which at least is pulling crowds.”

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