Priyanka seeks to keep focus on jobs

The Congress leader accused the government of trying to distract people with 'trivial issues'

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 19.03.19, 3:11 AM
  • Updated 19.03.19, 3:11 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves during her Boat pe Charcha in Allahabad on Monday. (PTI)

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday kicked off an extensive public contact programme from Allahabad, virtually unveiling her party’s election campaign in Uttar Pradesh from the ancestral city of the Nehru-Gandhis with a stinging attack on the central government for “intimidating” voices of dissent.

“You don’t have jobs. Youths and farmers are in perplexity. And they (the central government) are trying to involve you in trivial issues,” she said in a brief address from a motorboat.

“Politics should be done for the people and their voices should be heard. But here those who raise their voice are intimidated. Minimum job opportunities were given in the last 45 years. The Congress party had given the Mahatma Gandhi (National) Rural Employment Guarantee Act but this government has not approved any funds for it in the last six months. These should have been the election issues. But they are deflecting attention from these issues.”

Villagers gathered on the riverbank at Dumduma Ghat cheered as Priyanka, party general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh, spoke on the first day of her three-day 100km “Ganga Yatra” by motorboat from Allahabad to Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency.

“Priyanka Gandhi, zindabad,” people standing on the bank between Maniya Ghat and Dumduma Ghat chanted.

“How did you recognise me from such a distance?” Priyanka asked.

“Priyanka Gandhi, zindabad,” the villagers continued. It was not clear if they had heard her.

Priyanka with a child at Sirsa village in Allahabad.
Priyanka with a child at Sirsa village in Allahabad. (PTI)

Priyanka had done a road show in Lucknow in February after taking over as Congress general secretary for the heartland’s eastern region but the yatra she started on Monday from Allahabad virtually kicked off her party’s campaign in the key state for the April-May elections.

Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister, and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, Priyanka’s paternal grandmother, were both born in Allahabad.

While many have stressed her resemblance to Indira, Priyanka has also followed her mother Sonia Gandhi’s footsteps. It was from Allahabad that former Congress chief Sonia had started her first public contact programme after plunging into active politics in the late nineties.

“I want to urge you, my brothers and sisters, to vote wisely in these elections and form a Congress government so that your problems could be looked into…,” Priyanka said.

Priyanka’s Ganga cruise is being seen by observers as an effort to navigate her party out of decades of wilderness in the state, which votes in all the seven phases in the upcoming elections.

After a night halt, the Congress leader will on Tuesday morning resume her journey that would culminate in Varanasi on Wednesday.

Priyanka offers prayers at the Bade Hanuman Temple in Allahabad.
Priyanka offers prayers at the Bade Hanuman Temple in Allahabad. (PTI)

Priyanka had invoked her grandmother soon after reaching her ancestral home Swaraj Bhavan on Sunday night, tweeting and uploading a picture of the room that shows a child Indira.

“I am seeing this room where my Dadi (grandmother)… used to tell me the story of Joan of Arc…. Her words still echo in my heart. She would ask me to be brave and everything would be fine,” Priyanka tweeted.

Joan, an 18-year-old peasant girl inspired by “divine guidance”, had early in the 15th century led a French army to victory against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. She was later branded a heretic and burned at the stake before being eventually canonised as a Roman Catholic saint in the last century.

On Monday, before starting her Ganga Yatra, Priyanka worshipped the holy river and offered prayers at the Bade Hanuman Temple.

She held a meeting with some students of Allahabad University on the boat and asked them to question the government through social media if they didn’t like its policies.

Congress workers have named the meeting “Sanchi baat Priyanka ke saath (A true talk with Priyanka)”.

Temple entry

A group of lawyers on Monday handed a letter to the Varanasi district magistrate saying Priyanka should not be allowed to enter the Kashi Vishwanath temple as she is a Christian, according to a PTI report.

The letter, addressed to chief minister Yogi Adityanath, said the Congress leader’s place of worship was a church.

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