Varanasi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday launched her party's campaign for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election with a massive roadshow in Varanasi but had to cut short her visit.
The Congress president had to call off her road show in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency mid-way because of high fever. She is now returning to Delhi.
She also cancelled her planned visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the evening to offer prayers.
The sources said that Gandhi was suffering from viral fever but had decided to go ahead with the roadshow as she was not inclined to cancel it at the last minute.
The roadshow, which continued for about three hours, was halted for some time at the Lohurabir roundabout near the fag end of the eight-km march route from the Circuit House to Englishiya Line. The roadshow later proceeded without Gandhi.
Ghanshyam Srivastava, a doctor who attended to her, said she was feeling dehydrated and running high blood pressure (88-172) as well as fever. She was administered electoral and told to rest.
The 69-year-old leader, who was initially travelling in a car, was later moved to a vehicle with an open sunroof. "It is because of the crowds thronging her, humidity and exertion," said a Congress source.
Gandhi called off the remaining leg of her road show and was set to fly back to Delhi, the source said.
Earlier today, thousands of Congress supporters and workers took part in the roadshow from the Circuit House.
The march began with Gandhi garlanding the statue of BR Ambedkar at the Circuit House and the marchers crisscrossed lanes and bylanes of the temple town.
Gandhi came out of her vehicle several times to accept the greetings of the cheering supporters, including groups of Muslim women. As the roadshow passed through several localities, rose petals were showered on Gandhi and her cavalcade from adjoining buildings.
Dozens of mini trucks prominently displayed posters with '27 Saal, UP Behaal' (27 years of UP's distress) written on them. Placards carried by hundreds of workers also had the same slogan written on them.
Besides the party's chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit, AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, state party chief Raj Babbar and senior leaders Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh accompanied Gandhi.
This was Gandhi's first visit to Varanasi after Modi became Prime Minister.
Congress has launched a campaign "dard-e-Banaras" to highlight the lack of development in Varanasi, which Modi is representing for over two years in the Lok Sabha.
Congress has been out of power for 27 years in Uttar Pradesh and is projecting that the state has gone from bad to worse in these years through a campaign, called '27 Saal, UP Behaal'.
Varanasi is a key place in eastern Uttar Pradesh having some 160 of the 403 Assembly constituencies in the state.
Congress had only won two seats -- Amethi and Rae Bareli -- in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, while BJP and its ally Apna Dal secured 73 seats out of total 80.
The UP Assembly Elections outcome will also have ramifications for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor has been roped in by Congress to assist the UPCC in the Assembly polls. Kishor had planned the campaign strategy of Modi in Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar in the Bihar Assembly polls.
(With PTI inputs)