NEW DELHI: If the Congress was trying to make a point, it did. A day before extending support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to pass the GST Bill, the Congress took him on in his own constituency - Varanasi.
Even if it was for a day, the ancient city on banks of the Ganga, was splashed with the Congress tricolour and party president Sonia Gandhi’s images. From arches to gates to banners, hired poll strategist Prashant Kishor had decked up Varanasi for the Congress, just like he did for Modi/BJP in 2014.
As Sonia Gandhi propped herself up from the sunroof of an SUV - despite the SPG directions - travelling the same road that had led Modi to power in 2014, thousands of Congress-workers and locals gathered, raising slogans and showering petals on her. But after the Ambedkar statue was garlanded, and before the cavalcade could wind its way towards the Baba Vishwanath temple and then the statue of Kamalapathi Tripathi (a local minor deity of the Congress, and a Brahmin), high fever interrupted. The show had to be called off midway. But old-timers of the party felt a happy glow of deja vu by then.
In a show of the old-style political decorum, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately tweeted his wishes for her recovery. “Heard about Sonia ji’s ill health during Varanasi visit today. I pray for her quick recovery and good health,’’ he said on Twitter. The Congress expressed its gratitude too. Things may get more heated from here. But for now, it looks like the battle for Lucknow has infused a sense of old-world Lucknawi grace and tehzeeb on both sides, a spirit that was absent in 2014.
“She took rest in the Circuit House before flying back to Delhi. She covered most of the ground, only the last bit of the roadshow remained…,’’ said Congress leader Sanjay Singh. The Chief Medical Officer of Varanasi, Dr. BB Singh travelled with Sonia on her flight back to Delhi, say sources.
“Saddened that due to my ill health, I had to cut my visit to Varanasi short. Couldn’t visit Kashi Vishwanath temple either. I will come back very soon to visit the temple,’’ Sonia said, as if to underline it was only a temporary setback.