Congressmen put their best foot forward to make the day historic and were able to put up an impressive show. Hours before the arrival of the trio, Congress leaders from different parts of UP landed at the Amausi airport where the road show was to begin. Hailing their leaders, they all echoed almost in unison that time for change had arrived.
“It is beyond doubt that time for Modiji’s school of politics is over,” said Jitin Prasad, former MP. “The message is clear for all… each one has to pitch in, in the battle against BJP,” stated Laliteshpati Tripathi, former Congress MLA.
A charted plane brought the guests at 12.25 pm after an hour’s delay from the exact time of arrival. Draped in a simple cream coloured chanderi Kurta suit and self-design dupatta, Priyanka wore her characteristic warm smile that has won many hearts over the years.
After a formal welcome, she boarded a specially designed bus for the road show. One side of this bus carried a bust-cut out of Indira Gandhi besides images of Pandit Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi, the other side had pictures of Rahul, Priyanka and Jyotiraditya.
Waving people and reciprocating namaskars to everyone who greeted and hailed her, Priyanka passed on her scintillating energy to the cadres who raised slogans for her at the top of their voices and danced all along the way. Jyotiraditya too was at his sober best and exchanged greetings from everyone.
Congress workers welcomed their leaders at 20 different points in the city. Some of them had come especially from neighbouring districts to help Lucknow unit put up the show. In many places, ‘dhol walas’ played the beat while in others brass band presented patriotic songs including mere desh ki dharti … mera rang de basanti chola.
Near Sriganganagar metro station, several Congress workers sat atop a horse with the party flag to catch the attention of their leaders while near Shaheed Path, a group of workers painted chowkidar chor hai on their body. All through the route, workers showered marigold and rose petals on the leaders.
Supporters from different walks of life including elderly women awaited to see and compare if Priyanka Gandhi looked like Indira Gandhi or not. “I had seen Indira as a school girl. I came only to see if Priyanka looks like her or not,” said Neeta Singh in Alambagh. In the Manas Nagar area, supporters moved up a railway track to wave at the leaders.
“More than 20,000 workers from neighbouring units had come for the event,” said Gaurav Chaudhury, Lucknow district president. The cavalcade however stopped in two places. In Mawwaiya, the leaders sat on their knees to cross series of railway tracks. High tension electricity wires blocked the way at Burlington crossing.
Due to the problem Rahul, Priyanka and Jyotiraditya left the bus and took an SUV to continue the road show. They took a brief halt in Lalbagh where Priyanka Gandhi was expected to address. But delay at Burlington and heavy turnout at the venue led to a change of plan. The super-excited workers surrounded the cavalcade which became a security hazard. Still Rahul spoke briefly on the insistence of the enthusiastic crowd.
When crossing the Lalbagh area, they stopped at a popular tea shop for a break and then proceeded to Hazratganj where they paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and BR Ambedkar, before finally halting at UP Congress office.
The cavalcade reached the Congress headquarters around 5.30 pm amid hails of “dahan karo Modi ki lanka, bahan Priyanka bahan Priyanka”. The trio got down the cavalcade to inaugurate the refurbished media centre and quickly proceeded to the stage to address the workers.
After a brief setting the context brief by UP Congress committee president Raj Babbar, party chief Rahul Gandhi spoke to the cadres. “UP hame bahut priya hai… UP se hi Congress ne shuruat ki thi isliye ham UP mein kamzor nahi reh sakte (UP is very dear to us. Congress was born in UP and we cannot leave it in such a frail state),” he said.
Talking about the role of Priyanka and Jyotiraditya, he said: “In dono ko maine Congress ko UP mein mazboot karne ki zimmedari di hai… 2019 mein to hame behtar pradarshan karna hai magar 2022 mein hamko UP mein Congress ki sarkar banani hai (I have sent Priyanka and Jyotiraditya to revive congress in UP. While they would strive to improve party’s performance in 2019 Lok Sabha, they are here to work hard and ensure that congress forms the UP government in 2022). ”
Rahul reiterated that Congress was not the one that would play from the back-foot, and had brought Priyanka and Jyotiraditya to UP to play from the front foot. Thereafter, Raj Babbar took them to the renovated party office. But before everyone could get to know the next day’s plan murmurs of Priyanka Gandhi leaving for the day came up. In a few minutes she left the place with Rahul Gandhi.
The unannounced return of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, supposedly in wake of her husband’s ongoing case in Jaipur, acted as a dampener and left workers with a mixed feeling.