VARANASI: Taking the battle to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's turf, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today launched her party's campaign for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election with a massive roadshow here.
Thousands of Congress supporters and workers took part in the roadshow from the Circuit House to Englishiya Line, a distance of about eight kilometres.
The march began with Gandhi garlanding the statue of B R Ambedkar at the Circuit House and the marchers criss-crossed lanes and bylanes of the temple town.
Gandhi, who was initially travelling in a car and later moved to a vehicle with open sunroof, waved at the crowd which cheered and raised slogans against the Modi government.
She came out of her vehicle several times to accept the greetings of the cheering supporters. As the road show passed through several localities, rose petals were showered on Gandhi and her cavalcade from adjoining buildings.
Dozens of mini trucks prominently displayed posters with '27 Saal, UP Behaal' (27 years of UP's distress) written on them. Placards carried by hundreds of workers also had the same slogan written on them.
Besides the party's chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit, AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, state party chief Raj Babbar and senior leaders Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh accompanied Gandhi.
Earlier, Gandhi flew in here for a day-long programme in Modi's constituency and was led by hundreds of bikers, waving party flags from the airport to the heart of the city.
This is Gandhi's first visit to Varanasi after Modi became Prime Minister.
Gandhi is scheduled to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the evening to offer prayers.
Congress has launched a campaign "dard-e-Banaras" to highlight lack of development in Varanasi, which Modi is representing for over two years in the Lok Sabha.
Congress has been out of power for 27 years in Uttar Pradesh and is projecting that the state has gone from bad to worse in these years through a campaign, called '27 Saal, UP Behaal'.
Varanasi is a key place in eastern Uttar Pradesh having some 160 of the 403 Assembly constituencies in the state.
Congress had only won two seats -- Amethi and Rae Bareli -- in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, while BJP and its ally Apna Dal secured 73 seats out of total 80.
The UP Assembly elections outcome will also have ramifications for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor has been roped in by Congress to assist the UPCC in the Assembly polls. Kishor had planned the campaign strategy of Modi in Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar in the Bihar Assembly polls.