Congress President Sonia Gandhi took her constituency by storm as she arrived here Tuesday to a resounding welcome, not witnessed in recent times in her family bastion.
It was her first trip to her political turf after she resigned from the Lok Sabha, in the aftermath of the Opposition campaign about her holding an 'office of profit'.
The massive turnout at the Government Intermediate College grounds seems to have moved Sonia to make an emotionally charged speech that was received with loud applause.
Sonia made it clear that it was not just a visit to tell the people of this Gandhi pocket-burrow that she would soon return here to seek their mandate. "I have emotional bonds with Rae Bareli stretching over five generations right from the days of Motilal Nehru. I have come here like one who would like to share his feelings with his own family members," she said.
Blaming the opposition for her resignation, she made it clear that she would not be cowed down by their tirade and that she was ready to fight back.
"I will contest from Rae Bareli and am not prepared to get beaten by the opposition campaign against me; that is why I have come here to tell you that my battle will continue and the caravan will move on."
She also readily swung a sword handed over to her by a local Sikh supporter, which pleased the crowd.
She told the gathering, "My family has always been on the target of the opposition -- be it Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi -- each one was targeted with equal vehemence. They were not merely prime ministers but great leaders, therefore unmindful of the opposition they continued to serve the nation."
She said, "Today they are out to blame Sonia Gandhi for everything under the sun -- even if it were thunder, rain or lightning none other than Sonia Gandhi is to blame."
She went on to add in an emotional outburst, "Today every stone is being thrown at me, every arrow shot at me and every bullet fired at me."
Other than the massive gathering at the venue of the rally, crowds lined up all along the 83 km route from Lucknow.
She made it a point to offer prayers at a Hanuman temple in Churwa village along the route, known to be frequented by her husband Rajiv Gandhi.
"I have not witnessed such large crowds along the roads to welcome any political leader after Rajiv Gandhi," remarked a senior Congress leader. He claimed the majority of the crowd was spontaneous and had gathered on their own. "I would not be surprised if this signals the rejuvenation of the party in the state," he said.
The slogans raised by the crowds were in consonance with the banners, posters and buntings, which focused on her renunciation and sacrifice.
The crowds at the rally comprised mostly rural folk who may not have known why Sonia resigned.
"I do not know why she has resigned, but I am convinced that whatever she did was right and in the interest of upholding moral values," remarked Kiran, a 20-year-old married woman, who had come from Rustampur village about 20 km away.
Abdul Amin, who was equally ignorant, said, "I came here not to hear why she resigned but to also assure her that if she won by 300,000 votes in the last election, this time we would ensure an even bigger victory margin."
Not only was the entire area outside Lucknow airport draped in Congress flags but they also lined the route to Rae Bareli. Party workers and enthusiasts including school children hailed Sonia with party flags in their hands. Even though she barely slowed down to receive their garlands or acknowledge their greetings the drive which usually does not take more than 90 minutes took about four and half hours.