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Sword in her hand, Sonia sets the poll mood in Rae Bareli
Sharat Pradhan in Rae Bareli | May 03, 2006 18:48 IST
With a crown on her head and swirling a sword in her hand, Congress president Sonia Gandhi set the mood for the electoral battle set for May 8 in the politically vibrant Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency, where she arrived on Wednesday to undertake a two-day campaign for herself.
She virtually took Rae Bareli by storm with crowds turning delirious wherever she went.
Even as she was running at least three hours behind schedule, inquisitive crowds braved the scorching 42° sun, waiting to have a glimpse of the Italian born Indian bahu (daughter-in-law) of India's number one Nehru-Gandhi family, who was in Rae Bareli once again to don the political mantle in this family bastion.
Not only at the different venues of election rallies in three of the five assembly segments of the sprawling parliamentary constituency, but even all along her 200 km drive through the day, crowds lined up in every village to wave out at her.
Clad in a beige saree with a maroon border, head covered and sporting a crimson teeka on her forehead, she sat on the front seat of her Tata Safari acknowledging the greetings of enthusiastic men, women and children, as she drove through the dusty, undulating terrain.
At her first major election rally in Sareni village, local leaders first welcomed her with a 60 kg rose garland, that was promptly followed by another party worker offering her a symbolic crown. But the turning point came, when a former local legislator offered her a sword, which she swung in the air as if conveying that she was ready to take on her rivals.
The poll was necessitated following her own resignation in the wake of controversies about her holding 'office of profit' in violation of constitutional provisions.
While son Rahul has been holding fort and leading the election campaign for her, Sonia took time off to join him for two days after which daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Robert Vadra would pitch in later this week to make the family effort complete.
Of the 15 Lok Sabha elections held in Rae Bareli since independence, the seat was held by one or the other Gandhi kin as many as 13 times.
No wonder therefore, Sonia looked quite content focusing her energies only on reminding the crowds at each of the gatherings about her "five-generation-old connection with Rae Bareli". Evidently, that was enough to bring smiles on the faces of thousands who waited for hours to listen to her.
What sent the crowds into thunderous applause was her oft-repeated assertion that she would not get cowed down by the opposition campaign against her.
Without referring to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had trained his guns at her in an election rally in Rae Bareli on Tuesday, Sonia told the crowds at Sareni village, "Of late, my critics have been trying to make all kinds of wild allegations against me; but I cannot stoop down to their levels."
Slogans of "Sonia tum sangharsh karo hum tumhare saath hain" and "Sonia zindabad" rent the air, as she went on to add, "However, I am confident that you will give a befitting reply to such leaders."
As if to further emotionally charge the crowds in Kheeron village, she went on to add, "Sonia kisi ke dar se maidan chorne wali nahin." (Sonia is not the type who will run away from the battlefield for fear of someone else.); "Jo usoolon ke liye ladte hain, who kabhi peeche nahin hatthey" (Those who fight for principles never turn back.); "Jo aam aadmi ke liye ladta hai, woh kisi aandhi ya toofan se nahin bhagta" (Those who fight for the common man, do not get scared by any storm or thunder.)
She made it a point to remind the crowds about the circumstances under which she decided to resign and face the challenge and let the people of Rae Bareli determine her political destiny once again.
Referring to the charge that she was holding an office of profit, she said, "I was holding the position of chairperson of National Advisory Council and believe me it was not for any personal gain, but in the larger interest of common masses; yet I chose to relinquish my Lok Sabha membership to uphold the values and ideals laid out in the Indian Constitution."
Before returning to New Delhi on Thursday evening, Sonia proposes to address similar rallies in several places on Thursday.