Senior party leaders said that Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is also party in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh was keeping a close tab on preparations being made by the party to arrange the buses for the stranded migrant workers, who have been walking hundred of kilometers on foot, bicycles, rickshaws, or carrying their parents, children on their shoulders.
The present build-up by the Congress has not come out of the blue.
A Congress leader, who was part of the team in arranging the buses and looking after the entire operation, wishing not to be named, told IANS, "Planning to provide the buses for the migrant workers in Uttar Pradesh was made on May 13. And on the same day the party discussed the plan with Priyanka Gandhi and a go through was received."
He said, within three days, the party arranged the list of over 700 buses from Rajasthan's districts like Bharatpur, Dausa, Udaipur, Alwar and Jaipur.
He said the party had kept in reserve over 350 buses in Haryana, over 300 in Delhi and 300 in Uttar Pradesh.
Explaining the procedure of arranging the buses, the Congress leader, "We contacted the bus operators, who operated buses in several districts of these states."
He said, some of the operators had two, three, 10, 15 or 50 buses and they provided buses to us.
"Through this we had arranged over 1,400 buses in less than three days time for the migrant workers," he said.
"We hired them on rent on a per day basis," he said, adding that then the list of the buses were prepared and sent over to the Uttar Pradesh government.
And till date an amount of Rs 4.8 crore need to be paid to the bus operators. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had entered in a bitter war of words with the opposition Congress over the issue of buses to transport migrant labourers.
However, in the middle of this ongoing political slugfest, the party with Priyanka Gandhi leading the charge in the state outsmarted the mightier regional outfits like Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, to occupy the larger space of opposition politics.
The party leader further said that on May 16 they gave a letter from Priyanka Gandhi to the Uttar Pradesh government and also sent 500 buses to the Mathura border.
"However, that day the government said that we are capable as we have over 12,000 buses," he said, adding that the buses were then returned on May 16.
However, the party received a letter on May 18 to send the list of 1,000 buses to the state government.
"When they asked for the list of buses on May 18, we sent the list within two hours and by midnight on May 18 we prepared 1,112 buses. But again on late May 18 night they wrote to bring the buses to Lucknow and then on May 19 they asked to bring buses to Noida and Ghaziabad," he said.
"So we brought the around 500 buses to the Rajasthan-Agra border on May 18 and the rest of the buses from Haryana and Delhi reached Noida-Delhi border," he said.
Riding on bus politics, the Congress gave the momentum to the party workers in the state. Priyanka Gandhi, immediately after the first few days of the lockdown started working out on strategy.
"Just two days after the national lockdown came in force on March 25, she had gone into a video conference with her state unit leaders, handing the task to organise free kitchens for those in distress," another senior party leader from Uttar Pradesh said.
He said, she also became the part of the many of the WhatsApp group to monitor the works of providing food and ration to the people in distress across the state. It was Priyanka Gandhi's idea to form the highway patrol team of the party to provide help to the migrant workers walking on foot to their native places.
Meanwhile, on a number of occasions she also wrote letters to Adityanath, making a series of suggestions about steps required to help daily wage labourers, farmers and poor people in the state.
In her letter to the Uttar Pradesh government, she also expressed the desire on part of the Congress party to volunteer in the relief and assistance operations.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)