Rahul draws huge crowds in Varanasi

By IANS, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) : Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi was given an enthusiastic welcome in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi as he undertook a grand road show here Tuesday, the last day of campaigning for the sixth phase of the staggered Uttar Pradesh assembly election Thursday.

People cheered him all along his journey through the narrow lanes and by-lanes of this crowded city. They showered rose petals on him as they lined both sides of the road and flung garlands at him from windows and balconies of houses and from rooftops.

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Perched atop his SUV, a smiling Rahul repeatedly shook hands with them. And the blazing sun and hot winds did not seem to deter the enthusiasm of either side. The surging crowds also gave the security personnel a hard time.

A musical band remained in tow all along the 30-km-long route in the district which has six assembly constituencies. He also visited Ghazipur in the neighbourhood.

A large number of members of Muslim community, including many burqa-clad women, were also seen cheering the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi clan in the Muslim-dominated localities.

The Amethi parliamentarian spent almost the whole day in this politically crucial area where bigwig rivals like Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kalyan Singh and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati had campaigned extensively in the past few days.

Slogans of “Rahul Gandhi ka haath Vikas ke saath, Congress party Zindabad” (Rahul Gandhi’s hand is with development) rent the air as he toured the Muslim-dominated areas of Madanpura, Chowk, Sonarpura and Newada.

While both political circles as well as common voters were still debating whether his charisma will translate into votes, Rahul told a well-attended roadside rally: “I am not alone – I have an army of youth of Uttar Pradesh with me to change the face of this state.”

Assuring the crowds that he would take Uttar Pradesh on the development path, the Congress MP urged people to “shun parties propagating caste and religion, on the basis of which they sought to divide society”.

“It is your responsibility to take the state forward and place it on the position where it once was. I have come to UP so that I can do this job by working with you,” he told another rally in Sadat in Ghazipur district.