Seeking to navigate the Congress towards regaining its lost political moorings in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday began her 'Ganga Yatra' on boat to reach out to voters urging them to bring "a government that works for them" and asserting that "my brother Rahul Gandhi does what he says".
The 47-year-old Congress general secretary, clad in a green cotton saree and pink blouse, interacted with a cross-section of people, including students, and invited some of them to join her on the motorboat as she undertook her much anticipated ride from the Manaiya Ghat in Kachnar tehsil of Prayagraj district.
Kicking off the Lok Sabha election campaign with her three-day visit to eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka will cover a distance of 100 km by boat in Ganga from Allahabad to Varanasi , the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and will also visit several temples while literally testing the political waters of UP where the Congress has been in the wilderness for nearly three decades.
She started her river journey with a visit to the Sangam and performing puja along with party leaders at the Bade Hanuman Mandir, popular as 'Letee Hanuman Ji' near Prayagraj Sangam.
Sitting cross-legged on the motorboat, the Congress leader, who has been assigned the task of leading the campaign in the region where political opponents like the BJP and the BSP-SP have a strong footing, was all ears as the locals residing on the river bank apprised her of their issues.
Taking a halt at the Dumduma Ghat under the watchful eyes of SPG personnel escorting her, Priyanka in her brief address said that she had come here to listen to the people and learn about their problems rather than giving speeches.
She asked the people to "bring a government which works for you...my brother Rahul Gandhi does what he says... in MP, in ten days of Congress coming to power, farmers' loans were waived...same in Rajasthan." "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...this area has specific problems," she said, adding that she is aware that sand mining rights are not given to boatmen who are 'ganga putra' and added that "Rahul has said that a separate ministry for them will be created".
Taking another halt at the Sirsa Ghat, she said that the electorate has witnessed Congress governments during which schemes like MNREGS was launched and regretted that jobs have become scarce in the present times.
"Elect a government for yourself as the responsibility of the country is on you... it is because of you that we are standing here," she said.
"When you will strengthen the Congress and Rahulji, you will see in the times to come that development is taking place," she said referring to her brother and Congress President.
After a night halt in Sitamarhi in Bhadohi district, the Congress leader will resume her onward journey tomorrow morning that will culminate in Varanasi on Wednesday.
The party's newly appointed general secretary had said she would contact the people using various means of transportation, including waterways and padayatra (on foot).
"River Ganga is a symbol of truth and equality. It is also a symbol of our Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (culture). It does not differentiate among people. Ganga-ji is the lifeline of Uttar Pradesh and with her support I will reach you," she had said in an open letter on March 17.
Arriving here from Lucknow on Sunday night to a rousing reception by party workers who shouted slogans of 'dahan karo Modi ki Lanka, behen Priyanka behen Priyanka', the Congress leader tweeted an image of the room at Swaraj Bhawan.
"Sitting in the courtyard of Swaraj Bhawan, I can see the room where my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) was born. While making me sleep in the night, she used to tell stories of Joan of Arc. Her words reverberate even today. She used to say -- become fearless and everything will be alright," Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in a tweet.
After making a political buzz with a roadshow in Lucknow last month, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had on Sunday said that political stagnancy had left the youths, women, farmers and labourers distressed in Uttar Pradesh.She said political transformation in the state was not possible without listening to the voices of the people and sharing their pain. "Hence, I have come to your doorstep for a sachaa samwaad (genuine conversation). I assure you that based on the conversation with you, we will bring transformation in politics. We will move towards solving your problems," she said.
Congress spokesman Anshu Tripathi said, "These villages and people have been living on the fringes since long and have been neglected by successive state governments in the last 30 years. This is an attempt by the Congress leadership to let them know its sincerity for all sections of people, including the neglected ones." The BJP, meanwhile, ridiculed Priyanka Gandi Vadra's boat campaign, saying every election is a "picnic" for the Gandhi family. "They come, they see and resort to rhetorical speeches. After the elections are over, they head towards Switzerland or Italy," BJP leader and UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma said.
Polling will be held in seven phases in Uttar Pradesh from April 11 to May 19. Results will be announced on May 23.