NEW DELHI: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was the cynosure of many eyes on Monday -- the thousands walking alongside during her debut road show in Uttar Pradesh as Congress general secretary and the many analysts looking for political nuance but also her husband who asked people to "keep her safe".
The lines between politics and family and public and personal seemed to have blurred for the Congress leader and mother of two, who also found herself at the centre of a debate with a BJP MP's comments on her choice of clothes being slammed as sexist and misogynistic.
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"Priyanka Gandhi wears jeans and top in Delhi but when she comes to rural areas she is clad in a sari and wears sindoor," Harish Dwivedi, BJP MP from Basti in Uttar Pradesh, told reporters in his constituency on Sunday night.
Congress leader M Veerappa Moily and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti were among those who criticised him for his anti-women remarks.
Congress President @RahulGandhi GS Incharges UP East & West @priyankagandhi & @JM_Scindia greet the thousands of well wishers gathered along the path of their roadshow in Lucknow. #NayiUmeedNayaDesh pic.twitter.com/BvDyDjLSAX— Congress (@INCIndia) February 11, 2019
The sexist and inappropriate remarks reflect a "patriarchal and misogynistic mindset", Moily said on Twitter.
What a woman chooses to wear is nobody's business but her own, added Mehbooba.
"Sadly even in todays modern world, patriarchy plus brazen sexism always raises its ugly head & is normalised," the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister tweeted.
Monday was also the day Priyanka Gandhi joined the microblogging site, getting tens of thousands of followers within hours of logging in.
Dwivedi's widely reported comment was perhaps part of the "vindictive and vicious" political atmosphere that her husband Robert Vadra warned her against in an emotional Facebook post on Monday.
As Priyanka Gandhi, 47, travelled slowly through the streets of Lucknow with her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party colleague Jyotiradiya Scindia, Vadra sent her his best wishes.
"Please keep her safe," Vadra said, doffing his hat to his "best friend" over the years.
"My Best wishes to you P, on your new journey of working in Uttar Pradesh and serving the people of India. You have been my best friend, a perfect wife, and the best mother to our children," Vadra said.
"There is a very vindictive and vicious political atmosphere. But I know, it's her duty to serve the people and now we hand her to the people of India. Please keep her safe," he added.
Priyanka Gandhi, who married Vadra in 1997, last week came out in strong support of her husband, dropping him off at the Enforcement Directorate office for his first day of questioning in connection with a money-laundering probe.
"He is my husband, he is my family," she said in her unambiguous message of solidarity. In Lucknow on Monday, crowds jostled with each other to catch a glimpse of the woman who many old timers said carried the stamp of her grandmother Indira Gandhi.
लखनऊ में रोड-शो के दौरान नन्ही सी बच्ची भी कांग्रेस की राष्ट्रीय महासचिव @priyankagandhi जी का स्वागत करने पहुंची। इस प्यार भरे स्वागत से अभिभूत प्रियंका जी ने उसे गोद में उठा लिया और अपनी तरफ से आभार व्यक्त किया। #NayiUmeedNayaDesh pic.twitter.com/RpvafNjVFA— UP Congress (@INCUttarPradesh) February 11, 2019
Though Priyanka Gandhi has often campaigned for her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi in the state, this was the first time that she was there as Congress general secretary and most couldn't get enough of her.
As her 'rath' inched through major thoroughfares, enthusiastic people and party members took vantage positions to click a pic.
Party tricolours and hoardings all over gave the city a festive look.
Some posters showed Priyanka Gandhi in a 'Durga Mata' avatar riding a lion.
"Maa Durga ka roop behen Priyankaji" (Sister Priyankaji is Maa Durga's incarnation) said one poster, while some others highlighted her resemblance to Indira Gandhi.
Besides workers of other front organisations of the party, some Congress workers -- said to be members of Priyanka Sena, a little known outfit -- were seen wearing pink T-shirts with her photograph.
"With the Priyanka Sena at the Nehru Bhawan, Lucknow it is almost celebration here," tweeted Sushmita Dev, president of the All India Mahila Congress.