By Anand Singh
Prayagraj, March 18 (IANS) Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Monday kicked off her three-day Lok Sabha campaign by taking a boat ride on the Ganga river from here, accusing the Modi government of slapping sedition charges against dissenters.
As the boat sailed slowly, Gandhi, 47, waved to people crowding the banks of the holy Hindu river and with a hand-held microphone asked them loudly about their welfare.
Most of those living on the banks are from the Nishad and Mallaah communities.
Addressing a gathering near Dumduma ghat, Gandhi said: “When we raise any issue, we are suppressed and lathi-charged. Yesterday a woman came… They came with hope.”
But whenever people protest, they end up facing even sedition charges, she said.
The Congress leader said the people need to understand that this country belongs to everyone.
“This country is yours, this democracy is yours and even this politics is yours. It is only because of people that we exist. There can be no Priyanka Gandhi without you people.”
Gandhi left Swaraj Bhawan, her family’s ancestral home, in the morning and reached the Bade Hanuman Mandir, popular as ‘Lete huye Hanuman Mandir’, near Prayagraj Sangam.
She prayed at the temple and to the river Ganga.
She then embarked on her much anticipated boat ride from the Manaiya Ghat.
Asked about her river ride, Gandhi replied: “Ganga maiya udaar hai (Mother Ganga is magnanimous.)”
She was welcomed by party supporters who showered flowers on her.
After arriving at Manaiya ghat, Gandhi broke her security protocol and shook hands with supporters who had arrived from different parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The younger sibling of Congress President Rahul Gandhi interacted with 20-25 girl students as part of her campaign “Sanchi baat” soon after her boat left Manaiya ghat. They were with her on the boat specially prepared for the campaign.
Many leaders have demanded that Priyanka Gandhi contest from the Phulpur constituency, which was represented by her great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Ashsih Kumar Srivastava, a Congress supporter from Chitrakootdham, said: “We want her to lead the party. And we demand that she must contest from Phulpur.”
Sudhir Dwivedi, a resident of Bahadurpur, situated opposite the Manaiya ghat, said: “After the arrival of Priyanka Gandhi there is a definite wave for the party here in the state.”
With her river ride, Gandhi will also raise the issue of pollution that is destroying the river.
Pointing towards the river, he said: “You can clearly see that Ganga has not been cleaned and so the Mother Ganges has called upon her daughter.”
The first day of her three-day river ride will take her from Prayagraj to Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gandhi is also supposed to meet the family members of Central Reserve Police Force trooper Mahesh Raj Yadav, one of the 40 to die in the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack in the Kashmir Valley.
On Sunday, she held marathon meetings with party workers at the Nehru Bhawan party’s state headquarters in Lucknow.
(Anand Singh can be contacted [email protected])