Close to midnight on Saturday, Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh R K Tiwari and Director General of Police O P Singh huddled together to review the impact of Congress national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s visit to Lucknow earlier in the day.
The allegation that police manhandled her shook the administration. Within the hour, the government and BJP spokesmen came out with statements and videos to claim that no policewoman touched here. But they were cautious in not blaming her for making a false statement. Instead they referred to social media posts.
She on her part stuck to her version, asking the media to look at the videos available. In the process, she was able to hurt the Yogi Government, embarrass it and highlight the misgovernance and misguided police action.
A senior official told this reporter that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was in Gorakhpur on Saturday night, was in touch with officials in Lucknow enquiring about the movement of Priyanka Gandhi and the impact of her visit.
Priyanka Gandhi told the media that her decision to visit the family of arrested retired IPS officer S R Darapuri was not known to even Congress workers. Darapuri was arrested by the UP Police after keeping him under house arrest on the day of protests on December 19 along with another septuagenarian activist and lawyer Shoeb Ahmed.
When police stopped her, she rode pillion on a two-wheeler and then walked three kilometers to reach the residence of the retired officer in Indira Nagar, 10 kms from the Congress party headquarters.
Darapuri is not a congress leader. He is a dalit activist and member of Ambedkar Mahasabha. During the anti-CAA protest he was arrested. The air in the Congress office was agog with speculation that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra might go to the residence of Sadaf Jafar, a Congress leader, who too is incarcerated for anti-CAA protests.
But while her decision to pay a visit to Darapuri’s family caught the police off guard, the question being asked is why the police tried to stop her. By telling her that she was not allowed to meet the family, UP Police tied itself in knots. By physically trying to stop her, and failing, they had egg all over their face.
With her visit she has lent her voice to the people who are waging a war against the National Register of Citizen (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) much to the chagrin of the Yogi Government. The administration had earlier denied permission to the Congress to take out a peace march in Hazratganj, citing imposition of section 144 in Lucknow. A few days back, the government had denied permission to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi to visit Meerut to meet family members of those activists who died in police firing during anti-CAA protest.
“This coward BJP Government is afraid of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra because the Chief Minister knows that wherever she goes, she will expose the truth. She went to Bijnore and told the world that the police had opened fire on unarmed youth. Earlier, the UP police maintained that police had not opened fire but now the SP, Bijnor admits police did open fire in which one person was killed,” Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lalu said.
He asks why Government tried to prevent her to meet Darapuri and his family. This was done because the government knew people will tell her about the atrocities being committed by police inside the jail. “The Congress workers are ready to fight this government which is biased against a section of society,” he said.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev at a late evening briefing on Saturday said Priyanka Gandhi was acting as a responsible leader without disturbing peace. She "didn't violate Section 144 but even then she was manhandled by police."
Reactions on social media were swift. “Is this the #RaudraRoop or the #RealRoop of @myogiadityanath ? @ttindia asks ! The way UP police has been dealing with protestors including the stopping of @priyankagandhi ji reveals the real face of #UPMeinGundaraj, tweeted Mahila Congress
No! This is not a scene of any movie, it’s a pathetic situation Uttar Pradesh under Ajay Bisht Sarkar where Police tried forcefully to hide the failure of State BJP Govt. & kill the voice of democracy,” read another tweet.