Congress president Sonia Gandhi called off her much-publicised “road show” in Varanasi after she developed high fever, six hours into the campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency on Tuesday.
Gandhi reportedly felt uneasy at Lahurabir and stopped there to rest. Later, she abandoned the campaign and was advised to return to Delhi.
But her flight to Delhi was delayed as she was treated at the Varanasi airport and officials were waiting for an air ambulance or a chartered plane, airport director D S Gariya said.
Gandhi’s health has been fragile for some time and the 69-year-old leader has made multiple trips to the United States for treatment.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi travelled an open sports vehicle amid cheering crowds to launch the Congress’ campaign for next year’s elections in Uttar Pradesh. Her 50-car cavalcade snaked through an 8-km stretch decorated with festoons and buntings, as thousands lined the streets while many peered from their homes and rooftops.
Party supporters stopped the cavalcade at prominent intersections to felicitate Gandhi, who wore a gold-and-white sari and had a party flag wrapped round her wrist.
The impressive turnout comes as a shot in the arm of the Congress, which is hoping to dent the support of the BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi party (SP). The choice of Varanasi for a high-decibel campaign was seen as a strategic move by the Congress, which had hoped to highlight the alleged lack of development in Modi’s constituency as well as woo upper caste voters.
But the fallout of the aborted campaign remains to be seen. Gandhi was supposed to end her road show with an “aarti” at Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Underscoring the party’s efforts to balance the caste equations in the state, Gandhi began her day by paying tributes to Dalit icon B R Ambedkar and was expected to end it by garlanding a statue of former Congress chief minister Kamlapati Tripathi, an upper caste leader.