Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is campaigning for the Congress in eastern Uttar Pradesh ahead of the national election, began a mega three-day boat ride in the river Ganges from Prayagraj today. She called the holy river "large-hearted". The 47-year-old's last stop will be Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency.
On her boat ride that covers over 100 kilometres, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will make pit-stops and interact with people who live by the river and seek support for the party for the Lok Sabha polls. Many of these communities come under the other backward castes or scheduled castes groupings and together, they make up a significant chunk of voters.
She began her journey from the Manaiya Ghat in Prayagraj. As the boat sailed along slowly, Priyanka Gandhi shouted out to the waving crowd, asking the crowd about their well-being.
She started her day by offering prayers at the Bade Hanuman Mandir, popular as 'Lete huye Hanuman Mandir on the banks of Sangam - a confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
"Ganga maiya udaar hai (Mother Ganga is large hearted)," she said. Priyanka Gandhi, the younger sibling of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, interacted with girl students soon after her boat left Manaiya Ghat.
A host of visits to temples and dargahs are also planned along the route where her steamer would make stops.
Priyanka Gandhi is also expected to focus on campaigning against the BJP government's claim of having cleaned up the Ganges through her motor bride and interactions.
She will also meet the family of CRPF soldier Mahesh Raj Yadav who lost his life in the Pulwama terror attack.
Ms Gandhi, who entered active politics in January after years of speculation, had said she would contact people using various means of transportation, including waterways, buses, train and padayatra (on foot). "River Ganga is a symbol of truth and equality. It is also a symbol of our Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (Ganga-Yamuna culture). It does not differentiate among people. Ganga-ji is the lifeline of Uttar Pradesh and with her support I will reach you," she wrote in an open letter to the people of Uttar Pradesh.
On Wednesday, she will visit the ancestral house of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Varanasi. Priyanka Gandhi will also visit Bhadohi and Mirzapur districts during her three-day journey.
Priyanka Gandhi met with party workers in Lucknow on Sunday and spent the night at Swaraj Bhawan in Prayagraj where her grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi was born.
She will end her trip in Varanasi on Wednesday, a day before the festival of Holi. Her itinerary in the holy city includes visits to temples, interactions with weavers, and also a 'Holi Milan' programme.
This is her second visit to Uttar Pradesh after being appointed the party's general secretary.
There have been questions on the Congress's handling of a politically crucial state like Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most number of lawmakers to parliament. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry into politics will make "no difference" to the BJP's Lok Sabha poll prospects in the state and dismissed the SP-BSP alliance as "false alarm".
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