Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra yesterday launched her three-day Prayagraj-Varanasi boat ride on the Ganges river as part of Lok Sabha election campaign, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being a friend of industrialists.
Taunting Modi for his ‘main bhi chaukidaar’ (I am also a watchman) claim, Vadra said: “A watchman is only meant for the rich and not for farmers.”
Modi, she told people crowding the banks of the river, “pushes money into the pockets of industrialists”.
“Modi only favours industrialists. So think before voting, use your vote judiciously, in a way that your vote changes things in the country,” she said.
As the specially-prepared boat sailed slowly from here, Vadra, 47, waved to people crowding the banks of the river and with a hand-held microphone asked them loudly about their welfare.
Packing the vessel were her supporters.
Addressing a gathering near Dumduma ghat, she said: “When we raise any issue, we are suppressed and lathi (baton)-charged. Yesterday a woman came... They came with hope.” But whenever people protest, they end up facing even sedition charges, she said.
The Congress leader said people need to understand that this country belongs to everyone.
“This country is yours, this democracy is yours and even this politics is yours. It is only because of people that we exist. There can be no Priyanka Gandhi without you people.”
Answering questions on the agrarian crisis, she said: “We are not here to make false promises. We do what we promise, like we waived off loan of farmers in all the states where we formed governments recently.”
Responding to Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati’s outburst over seat-sharing with the Congress, Vadra said: “There is no need to be angry. The common aim is to defeat the BJP.”
After leaving from Dumduma, Vadra reached Sirsa and Lakshagrih ghats.
However, her vessel got stuck in shallow waters and was pulled out by party supporters.
Earlier, Vadra left Swaraj Bhawan, her family’s ancestral home, in the morning and reached the Bade Hanuman Mandir near Prayagraj Sangam.
She prayed at the temple and embarked on her much anticipated boat ride from the Manaiya Ghat.
Asked about her river ride, Vadra replied: “Ganga maiya udaar hai (Mother Ganges is magnanimous.)” She was welcomed by party supporters who showered flowers on her.
After arriving at Manaiya Ghat, Vadra broke her security protocol and shook hands with supporters who had arrived from different parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The younger sibling of Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacted with 20-25 girl students as part of her campaign soon after her boat left Manaiya Ghat. They were with her on the boat specially prepared for the campaign.
The river ride will take her to Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Many leaders have demanded that Vadra contest from the Phulpur constituency, which was represented by her great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru.
Ashsih Kumar Srivastava, a Congress supporter from Chitrakootdham, said: “We want her to lead the party. And we demand that she must contest from Phulpur.”
Sudhir Dwivedi, a resident of Bahadurpur, situated opposite the Manaiya Ghat, said: “After the arrival of Priyanka Gandhi there is a definite wave for the party here in the state.” With her river ride, Gandhi will also raise the issue of pollution that is destroying the river.
Pointing towards the river, he said: “You can clearly see that Ganga has not been cleaned and so the Mother Ganges has called upon her daughter.”
Vadra meanwhile said she is drawing inspiration from her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who taught her to be fearless.
“Sitting in the courtyard of Swaraj Bhawan, the room is visible where my grandmother was born,” she tweeted late on Sunday, while spending sometime in the 19th century mansion here. The ancestral home was owned by her great-great grandfather, Motilal Nehru.
Vadra recalled how her grandmother often rocked her to sleep with the bedtime story of Joan of Arc, a peasant girl from medieval France, who believed God chose her to lead France to victory in its Hundred Years War with England. She succeeded and is honoured as the Maid of Orleans.
“I still have those words imprinted in my heart. Become fearless and all will be good,” she added.
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