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Priyanka on the campaign trail

Raja Sen in Rae Bareli | April 24, 2007

Priyanka GandhiMaharajganj, a good 30 km away from Rae Bareli, waited for Priyanka Gandhi.

The hot noonday sun did little to diminish the enthusiasm of a welcome party lining the streets, an eclectic bunch of little kids, women with arti thalis and grown men gushing with eager reverence about their bhaiyya Rahul and the evidently unbeatable Sonia Gandhi.

The Battle for UP

As for Priyanka, well, six-year old Sakshi declared that she too wants to be Priyanka Gandhi. Why? Sakshi isn't sure, but it doesn't seem to matter. The Congress's star campaigner enjoys an extreme fan base, this constituency is clearly, willingly swept away by sheer charisma.

It seemed like a security nightmare as the Special Protection Group, running five car lengths ahead of Mrs Vadra (a surname completely irrelevant in a Rae Bareli context) tried their best to construct a makeshift barricade. One wondered how a few lengths of rope would handle this already-hysterical crowd.

Name's Priyanka Vadra, not Gandhi

It didn't, but Priyanka did. Her SUV pulled up right in the centre of the crowd, where she came out for about 90 seconds, shook hands, patted heads, and smilingly accepted chart paper presents from the kids and mithai boxes from the elders.

Vote ka jhatka. dheere se!

There was incredibly little chaos, with most bystanders awed, just glad to have Priyanka in their line of vision. There is a no-nonsense air about the strikingly attractive leader, and she can effortlessly control an adoring crowd.

And then she was gone, off to yet another rally. As for this crowd, they had their collective day made, in a flash.

Photograph: Uday Kuckian

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