Monday 17 January 2022
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Sonia wanted to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple: How similarity with Modi ends right there

While the world came to know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi yesterday to inaugurate the “rejuvenated and transformed Shri Kashi Vishwanath Dham”, people had hardly noticed when Indian National Congress (INC) interim president Sonia Gandhi made an attempt but failed. She was scheduled to visit the holy place five years ago but could not do so.

While Modi’s visit to Varanasi took place months before the assembly election of Uttar Pradesh is likely to take place, Sonia Gandhi had landed in the pilgrim city a few months ahead of the 2017 state election but could not make it to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex.

The similarities end here. While Modi’s event to inaugurate the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor was a grand success, Sonia Gandhi’s scheduled visit to the temple actually never happened. The itinerary had gone haywire.

Modi thanked the residents of Varanasi, the labourers who were engaged in the project, sanitation workers, seers, sages and others for their contribution to the project, Sonia Gandhi had expressed deep regret on failing to visit the historic temple.

On 2 August 2016, Sonia Gandhi had landed at Varanasi airport to the INC’s campaign for the 2017 UP assembly election. She purposely chose Varanasi to start the campaign as it was, and still is, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

From the airport, she left for Circuit House from where she launched an 8 km with an Urdu/Persian name “Dard-e-Benaras” to highlight the alleged lack of development of the prime minister’s constituency.

Sonia garlanded the statue of BR Ambedkar at Circuit House before embarking on her which was supposed to end 8 km away on the Englishiya Line. Here she was supposed to garland the statue of former UP chief minister late Kamlapati Tripathi before delivering a public speech.

Later, she was scheduled to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple and meet the workers who were engaged in the cleaning of the Ganga.

Accompanied by INC’s Uttar Pradesh chief ministerial candidate (late) Sheila Dikshit, senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh and the then State Congress Committee president Raj Babbar, her three-hour started from Circuit House.

Raj Babbar had then tweeted in Hindi and said: “We welcome Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh and in the land of Kashi.”

Standing on a bullet-proof SUV, she waved to the thousands of people who had gathered on both sides of the road and were showering flower petals on her. In return, she was waving to the cheering crowd.

The INC had coined the slogan “27 saal, UP behaal” (UP in bad shape for 27 years) as it was out of power in the state for those many years till then. It was also a time when the party was yet to forge an alliance with the then ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akhilesh Yadav as the chief minister. This slogan was dropped after INC and SP stitched an alliance. The new slogans coined were “UP ko ye saath pasand hai” (UP likes this alliance) and “UP ke do ladke” (two sons of UP — Akhilesh and the then INC vice-president Rahul Gandhi).

Meanwhile, midway through her roadshow, Sonia Gandhi reported sick. Local doctors were rushed to examine her condition. She was found to have acquired a fever and high blood pressure. She suffered a bout of dehydration due to vomiting.

Prime Minister Modi offered help to Sonia Gandhi by sending doctors and a plane to Varanasi to bring her back to Delhi. At around midnight, she was back in the national capital with a team of doctors and was admitted to the Army and Referral (R&R) Hospital.

Sonia was administered intravenous fluids because of the massive electrolyte imbalance she had had.

The then Defence Minister (late) Manohar Parrikar called on Sonia Gandhi in R&R Hospital. After her condition stabilised, she was shifted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Prime Minister Modi spoke to Sheila Dikshit and enquired about Sonia’s health.
INC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala told media persons that Sonia had thanked all fellow countrymen and crores of partymen for their concern and good wishes.

The INC president regretted not being able to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. She has not been able to visit the ancient temple so far.

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