LUCKNOW: In a bid to send across a strong message to the Mayawati Government and offer condolences to the bereaved families of Thursday's stampede victims, Congress general secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi on Friday visited the affected villages in Pratapgarh district. Most of the victims' villages are located close to the sprawling ashram complex. Sixty-three women and children died in Thursday's tragedy. The victims belong to the lowest rung of society and were drawn mainly from the OBC and Dalit sections of the population.
Mr. Gandhi's visit to Pratapgarh follows the Rs.2-lakh compensation announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the next of the kin of the deceased on Friday. Mr. Gandhi landed in Allahabad in the afternoon before going by road to Pratapgarh. He was accompanied by the Congress MLA from Allahabad, Anugrah Narain Singh, during his visit to the victims' families and no other party functionary was allowed to accompany him, informed party sources said. The Congress MP from Pratapgarh, Ratna Singh, and MLA from Rampur Khas, Pramod Tiwari, were asked to go to Mangarh ashram.
Sources said Mr. Gandhi visited Manikpur Ghat on the banks of the Ganga in Manikpur village where most of the stampede victims were being cremated. The Congress general secretary stayed at the ghat for some time, talked to the people and offered them his condolences. He refused to talk to the media persons present at the ghat.
Thereafter he left for the other villages for meeting the victims' families. These villages included Kashipur, Sabunoi and Ghazipur. Mr. Gandhi did not visit the Kripalu Maharaj's ashram in Mangarh, as was being widely speculated, sources said.
Mr. Gandhi's visit assumes significance as his parliamentary constituency borders Pratapgarh. Moreover, the Congress has an established presence in the district. The local MP, Ratna Singh, belongs to the Congress and the MLA from Rampur Khas, Pramod Tiwari, is the leader of the CLP in U.P. Mr. Gandhi during his earlier visits to the State has quite visited the villages for an interaction with the people.