It was a rare moment for not only the Lucknow electorate, but also for local Congressmen to have their party president Sonia Gandhi to step outside the confines of her own Rae Bareli and her son Rahul's Amethi parliamentary constituencies when she visited not only the state capital but also two other key constituencies - Allahabad and Faizabad - as part of her whirlwind election tour on Sunday.
And evidently, ever since the campaign has drawn her to a couple of other important constituencies, she seemed to infuse fresh life into party that has been struggling to revive itself in the country's politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, where it last held the reins of power some 20 years ago.
The difference that was clearly discernable between her last rally at the 2004 elections and now was not only the rise in the attendance at the rallies but more so the response of the crowds. Unlike the past, men, women and youth who gathered at these rallies displayed their enthusiasm, by applauding Sonia each time she took on her party's opponents. Crowds cheered her each time she trained her guns at BSP, BJP or SP.
In Lucknow, where she was clearly in an offensive mood, Sonia trained her guns on each of her party's key opponents - Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP).
Perhaps this was the first time that she also decided to take on BJP's ideologue - Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) - whom she termed as BJP's remote control. "BJP is controlled by a particular organization, without whose permission even the party's top leadership cannot move an inch", charged Sonia in an obvious attempt to belittle the BJP.
And in a tit for tat to the BJP leadership repeated bid to dub Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a "weak prime minister", she made it a point to hit out at BJP's prime ministerial nominee Lal Krishna Advani, who she referred to as the man who got Pakistani terrorist Azhar Masood literally escorted from the Indian jail to his home.
"How can Advani call himself as a strong leader when he was the man who struck a compromise with a notorious terrorist like Azhar Masood?, she asked while adding , "that clearly reflected how far someone like him can go to keep himself in power."
In Lucknow where she wound up her day's itinerary , Sonia appealed to the crowds to vote for the party's Lucknow nominee Rita Bahuguna Joshi as also the Mohanlalganj's independent candidate R.K.Chaudhary whom the Congress has extended full support.
Dressed in a light green printed saree, she left no stone unturned to endear the people of Lucknow. Reciting a popular Urdu couplet , "Lucknow hum pe fida ; hum fidaye Lucknow..." , she sought to focus on the unique social and communal harmony for which the city was widely known .
Throwing the gauntlet at each of Congress adversaries, she said, "I would wish my opponents to know that the divisive politics played by them by spreading casteist and communal feelings will not work in Lucknow, where people do not get guided by such considerations."
Referring to BJP's much-touted claim of establishing 'Ram Rajya' , she said, "Let me remind those people who show dreams of establishing Ram Rajya that in Ram Rajya, there is no room for communal hatred , neither is there any scope for crime and criminals ; Ram Rajya means establishment of total peace, harmony and brotherhood."
Terming SP as an unreliable and unpredictable party, she again used an old Urdu saying, "pal mein tola , pal me maasha".
And in a head-on attack on BSP chief and UP chief minister Mayawati , the Congress president was even more blunt . "What Mahatma Gandhi did for the upliftment and well-being of the downtrodden was unparalleled and so did great souls like Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and Jyoptiba Phule whole contribution was no less, but they never built their own statues everywhere", she said in her bid to running down Mayawati who had put up at least seven of her own giant sized statues in Lucknow alone.
To draw the attention of the audience towards the entry of criminals into BSP, Sonia said, "those who should have been behind bars are now candidates of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)whose leader once claimed to be vehemently opposed to criminalisation of politics."
She also reiterated her usual charge about "misuse of funds" provided by the centre towards various rural development schemes".