Lucknow: The Congress on Thursday released its first list of candidates with 125 names, including 50 women, many of whom are known voices of ‘struggle’ and ‘fight’ against injustice in Uttar Pradesh.

Unnao rape victim’s mother Asha Singh (from Unnao), Shahjahanpur Aasha worker Poonam Pandey(from Shahjahanpur), who was badly beaten up by the police and Lakhimpur Kheri’s Ritu Singh (from Mohammadi) who was disrobed in the recently concluded panchayat elections in Lakhimpur Kheri are some of the names in the list that Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra released at a video conferencing with media persons on Thursday.

Priyanka called the list a “historic initiative” for taking the party’s announcement of giving 40 percent tickets to women to the ground and said her party was in favour of going for a positive campaign only. “Efforts have been made to field candidates who have been struggling and fighting for a cause and who can work to bring about a new way of politics. We will not go for any negative campaign. We will go for positive campaigns only,” she said.

Lucknow’s Sadaf Jafar, who was kicked in the stomach during the anti-CAA protests in the state capital and Adivasi (tribal) activist from Umbha Ram Raj Gond (from Obra), who fought for the cause of victims of the massacre claiming 13 lives in Sonebhadra are also among the Congress candidates, besides journalist Nida Ahmad (from Sambhal) and Tamil cinema actress Archana Gautam from (Hastinapur SC). Jafar has been fielded from Lucknow central seat.

Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Aradhana Mishra ‘Mona’ (from Rampur Khas, Pratapgarh), former union minister Salman Khurshid’s wife and former MLA Louise Khursheed (from Farrukhabad), former CLP leader Pradeep Mathur (from Mathura), former Bareilly mayor Supriya Aron (from Bareilly, who was in news for her comments of stampede in Bareilly marathon are also there in the list.

Other women given Congress ticket include Urmila Sonkar Khabri, a retired PCS officer who has been fielded from Orai, Pratima Pal an NSUI leader who will contest from Sirsaganj, Firozabad, Santosh Bharati a Valmiki given ticket from general seat, Pankhuri Pathak, a vocal social media activist who has been given a ticket from NOIDA and Vinita Shakya, who defeated the SP candidate for district panchayat member’s post in Mainpuri.

A documentary depicting the fight of victims in Unnao rape case and other major incidents was played on the occasion to describe how the Congress candidates had been fighting for justice and why they had been picked as candidates. “We have a mixed list. We are hopeful of bringing about a new way of politics now,” Priyanka said. “The Congress list is giving a message of giving the victims power to fight. They should come forward and take power in their hands,” she said.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Kumar Lallu (from Tamkuhi Raj), Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh (Rudrapur Deoria) and former MP PL Punia’s son Tanuj Punia (from Zaidpur SC) seat of Barabanki also find a place in the first list of candidates.

Asked whether winnability was a criterion for tickets, Priyanka said, “We have seen the ability of winning and fighting.” She said those who fought and served the society and who fought the election in the past had also been made party candidates. She said the Congress had brought the issue of women empowerment to the fore ahead of the 2022 polls. “We have worked very hard and brought our party to centre-stage. We will fight with all our might. The UP government is dictatorial today. We want to bring about a new way of politics.”

About the ‘aya ram gaya ram’ phenomenon with leaders of different political parties switching over loyalties ahead of the polls, she said “We feel bad when our colleagues go.”

On whether or not finding women candidates was difficult, Priyanka said “We received a lot of applications. We had a lot of women who were doing good work and have never been given opportunity. We are doing something new.”

On the Congress campaigns she said “We will be embarking on door to door campaigns. We will be doing Facebook live, hold competitions online and do Google hangouts etc.”

Asked if the Congress was working with an objective that no government would be formed without the party in 2022 polls she said “Yes, we have this objective. Our objective is also to strengthen the Congress.”

“Why are they not talking about unemployed youth? Why the victimized women are not an issue? We will continue with other issues and bring them to centre-stage. These include development and social empowerment as well,” she said.

On whether or not she would contest 2022 assembly elections she parried a direct reply and said, “I will continue my efforts in Uttar Pradesh. I will continue to work after this election. If the Congress wants me to go elsewhere, I will do that too in between as I have done in the past.”

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