New Delhi/Lucknow: AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will enter into the Uttar Pradesh battle zone on Monday with a two-day boat ride from Prayagraj to Varanasi, before which she will visit the cityâs historic Anand Bhavan, considered to be the political birthplace of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Top sources told this newspaper that Ms Vadraâs boat ride on the Ganga from Prayagraj (Allahabad) to Varanasi was aimed at showcasing the âGanga-Jamuni tehzeebâ of the eastern Uttar Pradesh region, of which she was made the general secretary in-charge.
To woo allies in the politically crucial state, meanwhile, the Congress announced on Sunday in Lucknow that it would leave more than a dozen Lok Sabha seats for other parties, including seven seats for the SP, BSP and RLD alliance in the state. Besides this, it also announced it will leave two seats for the Apna Dal â Gonda and Pilibhit. The party also announced an electoral pact with the Jan Adhikar Party founded by Babu Singh Kushwaha, a former BSP minister and close aide of Mayawati. Mr Kushwaha was one of Ms Mayawatiâs most trusted âbackroom boysâ, and a senior member of the UP Cabinet, but was forced to resign in April 2011 after being implicated in the murder of two chief medical officers.
âThe Congress is leaving seven Lok Sabha seats in the state for the SP, BSP and RLD alliance. These include Mainpuri, Kannauj and Firozabad. Apart from this, the party will not field any candidate on seats from where BSP chief Mayawati, RLD chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary are likely to contest or may contest,â UP Congress chief Raj Babbar told reporters in Lucknow. However, he did not reveal the name of the seventh Lok Sabha seat which the Congress will be leaving for the alliance.
âThe alliance has left the seats of Rae Bareli (held by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi) and Amethi (held by Congress president Rahul Gandhi). In a reciprocating gesture, we are leaving seven Lok Sabha seats for themâ, Mr Babbar said. When asked whether it is Badaun, he replied in the negative.
While SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav will contest from Mainpuri, Akhilesh Yadavâs wife Dimple Yadav is likely to be fielded from Kannauj. The Firozabad seat is represented Mulayam Singh Yadavâs nephew and Ram Gopal Yadavâs son Akshay Yadav. The SP has decided to field MPs Dharmendra Yadav from Badaun, and incidentally the Congress had earlier announced Saleem Iqbal Shervani as its candidate from Badaun.
âThe Congress also entered into an electoral agreement of seven seats with the Jan Adkhikar Party. Under this agreement, the Jan Adkhikar Party will contest from five seats, including Jhansi, Chandauli, Etah and Basti. In two seats, the candidates of the Jan Adkhikar Party will contest on the Congress symbol. One of the two seats is Ghazipur,â Mr Babbar said.
The BJP termed the Congressâ gesture as âlaughableâ. with UP deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma saying all parties are afraid of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and are thus forging a âmahamilavatâ (highly adulterated) alliance. âThe reciprocating gesture by the Congress goes on to prove that the âdalâ (parties) may be different, but their âdilâ (heart) is the same. The Congressâ move can be termed as laughable, and it seems the Opposition is afraid of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his growing popularity across the country.â
Meanwhile, Ms Priyanka Gandhi Vadraâs boat ride is also intended to send a strong political message that the party means business as Allahabad, where the boat ride begins, was for long considered a Congress bastion, especially of the Nehru-Gandhis, and Varanasi, where it ends, is the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, the biggest challenger so far to the Nehruvian ideology.
Sources said she would also interact en route with all the communities settled along the river like Mallahs, which the Congress considers politically crucial to its revival in the state.
Ms Vadra, who is likely to be the Congressâ star campaigner, reached Lucknow on Sunday evening and will begin her boat ride from Manaiya in Allahabad on Monday. She is expected to have a chat with students on the steamer and take a break to visit a village en route. She will end her trip in Varanasi on Tuesday and play Holi in the ancient city on March 20, a day before the actual festival. In a message to the people of Uttar Pradesh, she said: âI have a spiritual attachment to this land. I will reach you through the Ganga.â