Dubbing the foot march on Wednesday as a show of strength, leaders in the Uttar Pradesh unit of Congress said massive preparations are underway to make it a big success.
A day after it was prevented from taking out a march in support of the law student who has accused former Union minister Swami Chinmayanand of rape, the Congress on Tuesday announced that party workers led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will undertake a ‘padyatra’ on Gandhi Jayanti here. The party said it has called off the state wide protests against UP government planned for Tuesday against the arrest of its leaders and workers.
Dubbing the foot march on Wednesday as a show of strength, leaders in the Uttar Pradesh unit of Congress said massive preparations are underway to make it a big success. “Congress workers will take out a padyatra from Shaheed Smarak to the GPO park in the state capital to mark 150th birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi,” Congress Legislature Party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will also take part in the padyatra, Lallu said, adding party workers and leaders from all over the state will join the march.
The party had earlier given a call for organising state wide protests on Tuesday after the district administration of Shahjahanpur invoked prohibitory orders and foiled its attempt to take out ‘nyay yatra’, a 180-km ‘march for justice’ from Shahjahanpur to state capital Lucknow. But the protests were called off late Monday night and a padyatra was planned to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, Lallu said. “It would be a sort of show of strength by the party after arrests and house arrests of its senior leaders by the state government and leaders and workers from all over the state will take part in it,” sources said.
About 80 Congress workers were arrested on Monday at a public meeting ahead of the planned march in Shahjahanpur in support of the law student. Former union minister Jitin Prasada was stopped from leaving his Shahjahanpur home for the march and placed under house arrest while the borders of the district were blocked from all sides.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra criticised the arrests and lashed out at the ruling BJP.
“The BJP government of UP is standing with the one committing atrocities on daughters and is taking protesting Congressmen into custody,” Rahul Gandhi had tweeted.
Priyanka alleged that criminals in UP have the protection of the government so that they can intimidate a rape victim. “The UP BJP government wants to suppress the voice seeking justice for the daughter of Shahjahanpur. The padyatra is being stopped. Our workers and leaders are being arrested. What is there to be afraid of?” the Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh said in a tweet in Hindi.
Priyanka Gandhi has been repeatedly targeting the Adityanath government over law and order and other issues. Congress leader Jitin Prasada also hit out at the BJP. “UP is no Kashmir yet today I am in preventive custody for simply wanting to highlight the plight of the Shahjahanpur rape victim. This BJP govt has no qualms in quashing an individual’s fundamental rights,” he had tweeted.
Priyanka Gandhi was appointed general secretary incharge of eastern Uttar Pradesh ahead of parliamentary polls and had campaigned vigorously, but of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress could manage to win only Raebareli. Even Rahul Gandhi lost to Union minister Smriti Irani from his family stronghold of Amethi. Party sources, however, maintain that her aim is to strengthen the organisation and prepare it for success in the 2022 Assembly polls in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.