Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra travelled to a village in Uttar Pradesh today to pay tribute to two soldiers killed in last week's Pulwama terror attack. "My sister said, in a way, the same happened to our father. So we understand the pain in your hearts," Rahul Gandhi said, addressing family members of one of the soldiers, Constable Amit Kumar Kori.
The Congress chief was referring to the 1991 assassination of his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by a suicide bomber of the Tamil Tigers.
The Gandhi siblings, along with Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Raj Babbar, stood with their heads bowed as the "Gayatri mantra" was chanted at the prayer meeting for Amit Kumar Kori, one of the 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers killed by a suicide bomber of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad in Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14. Slogans of "Bharat Mata ki Jai" were also shouted at the meet in Shamli. During the meeting, Rahul Gandhi also consoled weeping family members.
"We have come to sit with you for five minutes. We want to tell you that we are with you in your hour of tragedy. We thank you and your sons on behalf of the nation with all our hearts," said Rahul Gandhi, adding that India is a "country of love and goodwill." The leaders also went to soldier Constable Pradeep Kumar Prajapati's memorial.
Priyanka Gandhi, her head covered with a dupatta, echoed her brother's words: "In a way, we have seen something like this in our lives. But you should never think of yourself as alone. The entire country is with you."
The Congress posted on social media videos in which the Gandhis and Jyotiraditya Scindia were seen paying tribute to garlanded photos of the soldiers.
The party said the surprise visit by its two top election campaigners is a message that they do not want politics to cloud the memory of the soldiers, against the backdrop of aggressive statements and rhetoric.
Rahul Gandhi also posted a video on his Facebook page of a stopover at a roadside dhaba on his way to the prayer meeting.
The Gandhis were seen sitting at a shop around 300 km from Delhi called the "Shiv Shakti Dhaba", where they had tea and snacks as several Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel stood guard.
Priyanka interacted with a group of women and children who came to meet her, and also posed for selfies. "How far is your village," she was heard asking one of the women, as her brother engaged in a conversation with Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Priyanka, who joined the Congress last month and has been tasked with the party's campaign in the eastern part of UP, shared with a toddler the plate of chips from which Rahul Gandhi also helped himself.
This is the second time the Gandhi duo and Jyotiraditya Scindia travelled together to Uttar Pradesh after a mega roadshow in Lucknow earlier this month to launch the party's campaign for the national election just weeks away.
This time, the Congress insisted, there was nothing political about the visit.
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