In her first public rally on Friday, Sonia Gandhi showed what sets her apart and draws respect from across the political spectrum. She did not attack the ruling BJP, nor did she hail the INDIA bloc’s achievements. Instead, she made a warm, personal speech, instantly drawing the crowd into an almost private conversation at a public event.

It was a short concluding speech at the end of a surcharged joint rally of the Congress and Samajwadi Party in Rae Bareli, where Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav hurled barbs at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Rahul was particularly aggressive, targeting “Godi media” which is “sold out to Ambani and Adani” and attacking the PM for “making fun of the poor”. This was a reference to an interview Modi had given where he answered a question on inequality by saying: “Should everyone be poor? If everyone should be poor, then there will be no difference.” Rahul also claimed that he can “make the PM say anything that I want”, referring to the PM’s assertion in recent public rally that “Advani Ambani are ferrying money to the Congress by tempo-loads”.

But it was Sonia to whom the crowd warmed up.

“My family members in Rae Bareli... I have come here after a long time. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to you. My head bows before you in gratitude. For three decades, you gave me an opportunity to serve. This has been my biggest reward. Rae Bareli and Amethi have been my family and my home. Countless tender moments of my life are associated with my people, my family in Rae Bareli. This was only natural because of the 100 years of association that my family has had with you; we have our roots in this earth. This relationship is pure, like mother Ganga,” she said, her voice drowning in the loud applause from the crowd.

Also read: Cong campaign for RaGa in Rae Bareli gives BJP the heebie-jeebies

She recalled her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi’s, dedication towards Rae Bareli and her connection with the people there.

“Indiraji had a great affection for people of Rae Bareli. I have given the same values to Rahul and Priyanka that Indiraji and people of Rae Bareli taught us. She and the people here taught us to respect everyone. They taught us that whatever be the cost, the weak and the vulnerable must be protected, and that we need to fight against injustice and the rights of the people without fear. You taught us to not have fear because the roots of our struggle are strong,” she said.

Mera aanchal jeevan bhar aapke ashirwad aur prem se bhara raha. Aapke prem ne mujhe kabhi akele nahin padne diya. Mera sab kuchch aapka diya hua hai. Bhaiyo aur meri behno, mein aapko apna beta saunp rahi hoon. Jaise aapne mujhe apna mana, vaise hee Rahul ko apna mankar rakhna. Rahul aapko nirash nahin karenge (I was so fortunate to have your blessings and affection. Your profound love never made me feel lonely throughout my life. Whatever I have is because of you. My sisters and brothers, I give you my son. You embrace him the way you embraced me. He will not disappoint you),” she added.