Priyanka to launch poll campaign in Varanasi - GulfToday

Priyanka to launch poll campaign in Varanasi

Priyanka Gandhi at a rally. File

Resmi Sivaram  

Priyanka Gandhi will launch her election campaign in Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Congress leaders said the party general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh will visit Varanasi on March 20.

The Congress has prepared an elaborate three-day itinerary of Priyanka. She will undertake a boat-trip from Prayagraj to Varanasi.

The party has sought UP government security.

The trip, just before Holi festival on March 21, involves Priyanka taking a steamer from Prayagraj to Varanasi after visiting the Sangam and paying a visit to various temples on the way and holding public meetings with people near the Ganga banks in Sirsa, Sitamani and Mirzapur.

During her campaign, Priyanka is likely to raise questions over the government’s key projects such as “Namami Gange,” aimed at a clean-up of the river, and waterways, the party leaders said.

In Lucknow, senior party leaders on Friday reviewed preparations for her visit. Priyanka, during her last visit to the state, had stressed the need for strengthening the party’s organisation in the state.

“I am learning a lot about how to restructure the organisation and the changes needed to be made for the road ahead,” she told journalists in Lucknow last month.

The Congress had sent its national general secretaries to all the Lok Sabha constituencies to ensure that an organisational structure was put in place at the grassroots level.

BJP took potshots at the programme, with party spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi saying Priyanka is being able to travel on a boat in the Ganga from Prayagraj to Varanasi due to the “untiring efforts” of the Modi government to clean the river and make it navigable. “Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai - Priyanka has so already accepted our slogan.

She was absent from UP for over a month now.

“Also, she and her brother Rahul Gandhi never visited Sangam during the Kumbh but she is coming now,” Tripathi said.

The tour of the cities along Ganga is seen as a bold and innovative move to reach out to a large section of non-Yadav backward communities, many of which fall under Most Backward Class (MBC) category that have been economically marginalised and face a sort of existential crises in the new economy.

Population estimates suggest that all of these castes clubbed together form around 14 to 15 per cent of backward caste population in the state.

UP Congress president Raj Babbar on Thursday said in Lucknow that Congress’s east UP in-charge will be visiting villages and meeting the locals along river Ganga.

“She will try to understand and address to the problems and issues of these people,” he said.

On Friday, Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to the government for the seventh time, rejecting the offer to be a “Special Invitee” for the selection of the Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman.

Kharge has accused the Narendra Modi government of using his “refusal” to attend the Lokpal selection panel meeting as an “excuse” for not appointing the country’s first ombudsman. He has written to the prime minister reiterating his objection to invitation extended to him for the selection panel meeting as a “special invitee.”

Separately, a Congress leader from Kerala who has never faced an election has resigned and joined the BJP after Rahul declined him a seat for the upcoming elections. Party sources said there is no way he can be accomodated in Kerala, where most of the 20 candidates are sitting MPs.

Back in 2014, Vadakkan did make it to the shortlist of candidates from Thrissur but the Congress had to drop him after resistance from local workers.

The BJP is likely to have promised him a Parliament seat. For years, he had been in charge of the party’s media strategy, but was eased out after the Congress had to rise to the challenge of the BJP’s muscular social media strategy.

“It’s foolish to take away a seat from an incumbent and give it to a man who has never faced an electorate,” said a senior leader.

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