Congress vice president Sonia Gandhi starts her campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with a road show today in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency. The show of strength will include 10,000 bikers leading Mrs Gandhi’s cavalcade into town. Flanked by senior leaders of her party, Mrs Gandhi will set off on a 6.4 km road show through the city on a truck, post-lunch. The Congress’s new UP chief Raj Babbar and its chief ministerial candidate for the state Sheila Dikshit will accompany Mrs Gandhi as will Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress leader in charge of UP. Mr Azad is also the Congress’ leader in the Rajya Sabha and his party cited his absence from Parliament today as the reason it wanted the presentation of the landmark Goods and Services Tax bill in the Upper House to be delayed by a day. The GST bill has been listed for tomorrow, after protracted negotiations have led to consensus between the BJP-led government and the Congress. In Varanasi today, there will be little agreement on display, with Mrs Gandhi expected to launch a blistering attack on PM Modi and the BJP. In a tweet this morning, her son and deputy Rahul Gandhi blamed “13 years of Modi rule, not 2 years of Anandiben,” for the Dalit protests raging across Gujarat that are seen to have precipitated the resignation on Monday of beleaguered chief minister Anandiben Patel, who was handpicked two years ago by PM Modi to replace him as he headed to Delhi after his party’s big win in the national election. About 21 per cent of UP’s voters are Dalits and the Congress will hope for a spillover of the community’s anger in BJP-ruled Gujarat after four Dalit tannery workers were brutally beaten by self-styled cow protectors earlier this month. In the crucial UP election, the BJP is attempting to retain its traditional vote base of Brahmins and upper castes and also accrue new support from the backward castes and Dalits. PM Modi and his government have paid rich tribute to Dalit icon BR Ambedkar with a string of high-profile events to mark his 125th birth anniversary and the Prime Minister began his UP campaign earlier this year with an outreach to Dalits. .
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