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Rahul Gandhi says Priyanka Gandhi entrusted with charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh

Signalling a long-term focus on regaining power in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said he has given his sister Priyanka Gandhi, newly-appointed party general secretary entrusted with charge for eastern Uttar Pradesh, the target of ensuring that the party ousts chief minister Yogi Adityanath and forms the next government in the state.

The Congress will also fight the coming Lok Sabha polls with “full strength”, he said at a public meeting in his constituency while wrapping up his two-day tour.

Ms Vadra has been given the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh east, while Jyotiraditya Scindia holds charge of UP west. The Congress president said, “Priyanka and Scindia have been given a target. That is to form a Congress government in Uttar Pradesh in the next election by defeating and wiping out the BJP.” “Unlike PM Modi, I do not talk of a ‘BJP-mukt Bharat’ but speak with respect,” Mr Gandhi said, referring to Prime Minister Modi’s call to “free” India of the Congress.

“Whether it is Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, everywhere the Congress will fight with full might on the front foot, and you will see that after the Vidhan Sabha elections there will be a Congress government in the state,” he said. The Congress has decided to go solo in West Bengal as well, sources said. On Wednesday, the Congress broke ties with the TDP, with which it fought the recent Assembly polls in Telangana, and announced its decision to contest the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh on its own.

The start of Mr Gandhi’s two-day visit to Amethi, on Wednesday coincided with the formal entry of Ms Vadra in politics, after years of speculation on whether she would take the plunge. However, it is still not clear whether she herself will contest the parliamentary elections.

Mr Gandhi criticised the Central government over the Rafale aircraft deal and accused the Prime Minister of “waiving” industrialists’ loans, charges countered earlier by the government.

“The watchman proved to be a thief,” he said, and repeated the slogan, “Gali gali mein shor hai, chowkidar chor hai.”

The Congress president said that the Prime Minister had not kept his poll promise on creating jobs, and suggested that the BJP government had slowed development in his constituency.

“You will get your food park back, not 99 per cent but 101 per cent. All development projects that have been stalled by Narendra Modi and Yogiji to hurt you will be back,” he said, assuring voters in his constituency of restoring some of the stalled projects.

Earlier in the morning, Mr Gandhi visited a local Shiva temple after meeting party workers at a guesthouse.

Addressing a public meeting in Salon area, he termed himself, his sister and mother Sonia Gandhi as “soldiers” for the people of the constituency.

While Mr Gandhi won the 2014 parliamentary elections from Amethi, Sonia Gandhi is an MP from adjacent Rae Bareli.

Both fall under the eastern UP turf carved out by the Congress for Ms Vadra. Prime Minister’s Varanasi constituency and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s bastion Gorakhpur are also in eastern UP.

Mr Gandhi reiterated that he has full respect for leaders like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The SP and the BSP recently forged an alliance for UP for the coming Lok Sabha polls, keeping the Congress out of the pact.

Attacking the BJP, Mr Gandhi said, “The BJP people are spreading hatred in the name of religion, caste and region. They get people of UP and Bihar thrown out of Gujarat, get Hindus and Muslims fight each other.”

“Narendra Modi means hatred, he is the symbol of hatred. We will remove Modi in 2019 and no one can stop this,” he said.

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