Varanasi: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, continuing her campaign to meet victims of violence under the Yogi Adityanath regime, reached Varanasi on Friday.
Priyanka spent over an hour with those who had been arrested in the anti-CAA protests and heard their experiences. Members of the civil society were also present.
She met Ravi Shekhar and Ekta, the young couple who had been arrested, leaving their 14-month old baby in neighbour’s care.
According to sources, Priyanka assured the group of her support and also the support of the Congress in their campaign.
She was accompanied by senior Congress leader Rajiv Shukla, UPCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu, CLP leader Aradhana Misra, former MP Rajesh Misra, former MLA Ajay Rai, among others.
Media was not allowed in during her meeting.
Senior Congress leader Shweta Rai also created a ruckus alleging that senior party leaders were being prevented from meeting Priyanka Gandhi.
Priyanka also met the NSUI members who had registered a historic win in the students’ union elections of the Sanskrit University on Thursday, defeating ABVP candidates. Some students from the Banaras Hindu University also turned up to meet her.
Earlier, Priyanka offered prayers at the Sant Shiromani Guru Ravidas temple at Raj Ghat where the priest gave her two books on Sant Ravidas and his wife offered her Varanasi’s famous sweet ‘malai glori’.
She took a boat ride to the Panch Ganga Ghat and then the Shri Vidya Math where hundreds had turned up to meet her.
UPCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu had a minor accident when he slipped from the boat into the water but was rescued in time. He did not suffer any injury.
She later went to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Priyanka’s on-going campaign to meet victims of violence in the state is designed to position the Congress as the main challenger to the ruling BJP.
The Congress general secretary was the first leader to reach Sonebhadra after 10 tribals were killed in a massacre over land dispute in July last year.
Priyanka has visited the family of the rape-and-burn victim in Unnao and has met the victims and their families of anti-CAA violence in Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Lucknow and now Varanasi.
The other two opposition parties have not gone beyond sending party delegations to these places and tweeting against the state government.
Priyanka Gandhi has been working the ground ever since she was given charge of the state before the general elections. Her visits are also aimed at mobilizing local party workers and strengthening the party organization.
Interestingly, the victims in all these incidents — Sonebhadra, Unnao and Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut and Lucknow — have either been Dalits or Muslims.
The Congress apparently is trying to regain lost ground among Dalits and Muslims who had formed its core voters before the Mandal politics and the temple movement changed the political landscape in Uttar Pradesh.
Incidentally, Priyanka’s visit to the Ravidas temple in Varanasi is also significant since Sant Ravidas is essentially a Dalit icon.