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Sonia leaves UP Congressmen perplexed
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | January 19, 2003 04:58 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's recent visit to Uttar Pradesh has caused more confusion than a unity of purpose among the party's supporters in the state.
The party is preparing for an important bye-election to the Gauriganj assembly seat (a part of the Amethi parliamentary constituency, which Sonia Gandhi represents).
Congressmen were hoping that the party president would boost their chances in the February bye-election by launching a major campaign against the Mayawati government during her two-day visit to Amethi.
The election is crucial to the Congress as the party could retain only two of the five assembly segments in Amethi during the last assembly poll.
The party's candidate had won the Gauriganj seat by a margin of just 200 votes. The BJP came second and the BSP came third with around 300 votes separating it from the Congress.
Two national television channels had sent outdoor broadcasting vans from New Delhi to cover the visit.
However, everyone was in for a surprise as Sonia seemed reluctant to take the bull by its horns.
The visit suffered from an inauspicious start as bad weather delayed Sonia Gandhi's arrival on Friday.
And when she did arrive, the Congress chief Gandhi chose to concentrate on irrelevant issues preferring to turn a deaf ear to repeated demands for inducting daughter Priyanka Gandhi into the party ranks -- 'either as Youth Congress president or as an All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary'.
She then preferred to gloss over another contentious issue that was all-important for the locals -- changing Amethi's name to Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar.
When scribes caught up with her on Saturday before her return to New Delhi, she expressed displeasure over Chief Minister Mayawati's decision to rename Amethi.
Even then, she preferred not to join issue with Mayawati.
"Well, Amethi is known across the globe largely because of Rajiv Gandhi who became prime minister thanks largely to the electorate of this place," she quipped when asked if she preferred that the place be named after her late husband.
Lately, Chief Minister Mayawati had been having sleepless nights over what she perceived as Priyanka Gandhi's efforts to 'win back the dalit vote' that the Congress had lost over the years to the BSP, which claims to champion the cause of the dalits.
While everyone expected Sonia Gandhi to consolidate on Mayawati's fears, she did not even visit Punnpur, the village that had been in the spotlight over the past one month after Priyanka Gandhi came to the rescue of a harried dalit who had been uprooted from his house by upper caste toughs.
Priyanka's initiative had rattled Mayawati so much that the chief minister promptly organised a Bahujan Samaj Party rally in Amethi, elevated it as UP's 71st district and announced that it would be renamed as Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar.
Unfortunately, people saw through her intentions and criticised her derogatory references to Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi.
Congressmen were hoping that their party president would seize this opportunity to worm her way into the hearts of the dalits and other people disenchanted with Mayawati.
However, all that Sonia Gandhi did was thank the local Youth Congress workers for building a new house for the aggrieved dalit through voluntary donations and labour.
Her actions have left Congressmen wondering if their leader is indeed interested to take on the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, or has she given up on Uttar Pradesh, or if is she politically naive.
More reports from Uttar Pradesh
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