The Sonebhadra episode is turning into a Catch-22 situation for both, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Priyanka, who spent the night at the Chunar Guest House, said on Saturday morning that she would not return to Delhi without meetings the victims of the Sonebhadra carnage.
The Congress leader’s arrest — which district officials term “preventive detention” — has already spurred the Congress into action with the party planning to hold nationwide protests on Saturday.
Priyanka, at this stage cannot politically afford to retrace her steps and return to Delhi since that would reflect poorly on her party. Knowing her determination, and the response she is getting, it seems that she will prolong the dharna unless she is allowed to visit the victims’ families.
Yogi Adityanath, on the other hand, will not allow Priyanka to visit Sonebhadra. If he does, it will be a major moral victory for the Congress.
If Priyanka’s detention was a mistake, the BJP government will have to continue bearing the cross.
Top officials, till late on Friday night, tried to persuade the Congress leader to fill up the bail bond and return to Delhi.
“I will not pay a penny for the bail bond which they showed me on Friday night. I am ready to go to jail if this is what they want. I have not broken any rules. I even agreed to go to Sonebhadra with just two people so that the prohibitory orders are not violated,” she curtly told them.
Priyanka was reportedly asked to pay a bail amount of Rs 50,000 or face jail time of 14 days on Friday night.
“I did not break any law, nor did I commit any crime. In fact, I had made it clear that I am ready to meet the tribals alone if that is what the administration wants. Despite this, the administration has been doing this drama. The public is seeing everything. I consider bail in this matter completely immoral and I am not ready to pay it,” she said.
The Congress General Secretary apparently spent an uncomfortable night in the guest house but did not complain. Power supply in the guest house had been shut off late on Friday evening and was restored around midnight. Priyanka sat in the open with Congress workers, listening to their views.
Other Congress leaders, including legislature party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu also slept on the floor at the guest house.
District Magistrate Anurag Patel said that the power cut was part of routine load shedding.
Later in the night, senior Congress leader P.L. Punia reached Chunar to extend support to the Congress leaders. More leaders are expected to join Priyanka on Saturday.
It may be recalled that Priyanka had arrived in Varanasi on Friday morning and visited the Trauma Centre at BHU to meet those who had been injured in Wednesday’s massacre in Sonebhadra.
Priyanka, while she was on her way to Sonebhadra, was detained at Narayanpur in Mirzapur. She asked officials to show her the necessary orders for stopping her from going to Sonebhadra but officials merely said that they had verbal orders from the ‘top’.
Thereafter, Priyanka and other Congress leaders were taken to the Chunar Guest house.
Ten persons had been killed and two dozen injured in a caste clash over a land dispute in Murtiya village in Sonebhadra. Priyanka had come from Delhi to meet the victims’ families.