Lucknow: Exactly a decade after she last visited, Congress president Sonia Gandhi will return to Varanasi on August 2, this time, to campaign for Congress in poll-bound UP. Sonia, traditionally not given to overt religious symbolism, will make a departure from norm, and also pay obeisance to the residents Gods at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Her visit comes during the holy month of ‘Shravan’ when devotees from across the country throng the temple to offer ‘Ganga jal’ to the ‘Shiv linga’. This is Sonia’s third visit to Varanasi after the turn of the Century, and her first visit to Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi’s frequent trips to temples — Kheer Bhawani, Kedarnath and Baanke Bihari in the span of a few months — had come under opposition attack for taking a leaf out of BJP’s book. Sonia, though not a frequent visitor to temples, has also visited a fair share of them in the recent years; the Lakha temple in Mussouri earlier this year, the Rudradhari Shiv Mandir in Bageshwar, Uttarakhand, and Tirumala in 2006.

The Congress president had last visited Varanasi when she accompanied Union Home minister Shivraj Patil in the aftermath of the Sankat Mochan blast in March 2006, which killed over 20 people. Before 2006, Sonia had also campaigned in Varanasi during the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

During her three-hour tour of Varanasi on August 2, Sonia will also undertake a 6-km road show stretching between the Circuit House and Varanasi’s Cantt railway station where she will garland the statue of Congress’s former CM, Kamla Pati Tripathi. The Congress president’s visit comes close on the heels of the UP Udghosh in Lucknow by party vice president Rahul Gandhi, who met with party workers on July 29, directing them to aim for the next government in UP, not just the second spot. Rahul also took on the SP, BSP and the BJP, attacking each for failing to develop UP without caste or religious biases, and working for the uplift of all farm community as well as the poor, the Dalits and the backward.

While drumming up support for the Congress, Sonia’s road show will also focus on Prime Minister Modi’s neglect of Varanasi, and his failure to deliver on promises; from cleaning up the Ganga, to being the Pradhan Sevak who will tidy up the city and turn Varanasi into a Smart City. Coming close on the heels of the Lucknow launch of Congress’s poll campaign, the INC show will also hammer home the poll message of ’27 saal UP behaal’.

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UP Congress chief Raj Babbar and campaign committee chairman Sanjay Sinh met with senior party functionaries on Saturday and directed them all divisional in-charges to constitute an 11-member campaign committee in all districts falling in their divisions by August 10, and each Vidhan Sabha level campaign committee by August 30.

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