Two Congress leaders, who were suspended from the party after putting up a hoarding proclaiming Sonia Gandhi was “ailing”, launched a fast-unto-death on Thursday at Anand Bhavan, the ancestral home of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The hoarding was meant to be an appeal to Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls from Uttar Pradesh’s Phoolpur parliamentary constituency. But, it left the local leaders red in the face as it had enough ammunition for the Opposition to target the leader of the ruling alliance in the Centre, what with Assembly elections slated for December in five states.
It was not immediately clear whether Priyanka’s brother and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was reacting to the hoarding but on Thursday he referred to Sonia Gandhi’s recent illness in clear terms. Addressing a campaign rally in Shahdol in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Rahul recalled his mother’s efforts to get the Food Security Bill passed despite her illness. He recalled how she had participated in the debate on the Bill but had to be taken to hospital before the voting in Parliament.
However, for the two Congress leaders - Haseeb Ahmad and Shrish Chandra Dubey - the “humble appeal” turned out to be their undoing as the embarrassed party promptly suspended them after the hoarding was put up in the city’s Civil Lines area recently. The hoarding was also brought down promptly.
“Before putting up the hoarding, we had shown it to city and district Congress committee leaders who gave their approval,” said Haseeb Ahmad while talking to Hindustan Times at the Anand Bhawan on Thursday.
“They were the ones who made some changes and asked us to go ahead. Earlier, these very leaders were talking about the possibility of Priyanka being fielded from here and had urged workers like us to put up hoardings in the city with the demand that Priyanka be fielded from Phoolpur,” Haseeb added.
The hoarding, in Hindi, said, “Maiya ab rehti bemaar. Bhaiyya par barh gaya bhaar. Priyankar Phoolpur se bano ummidwar (Mother remains ill. The burden on brother has become heavy. Priyanka, contest from Phoolpur).
Haseeb also claimed that the “if the lines were embarrassing, the senior leaders should be held responsible not us”.
The Congress leaders claimed that some senior party leaders who are vying for ticket from Phoolpur are the ones behind their expulsion.
The two also pointed out that during the visit of party election observer Anil Singh on October 13, party leaders and workers had unanimously passed a resolution in support of Priyanka’s candidature from Phoolpur. “We shall call off this fast only after we are taken back into the party fold with an assurance given by a senior party leader,” he added.
However, the local party leadership was said to be very cut up with the two.
So much so that the state Congress president Nirmal Khatri has even directed that an FIR be lodged against them.