Supporters throng 10, Janpath on Sonia Gandhi's birthday

New Delhi


Supporters thronged Congress President Sonia Gandhi's residence to wish her on her 71st birthday on Saturday, on a day when the Congress and BJP locked horns in the first phase of the Gujarat elections, and days before she steps down to make way for her son Rahul Gandhi to take up the party's top post.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wished the Congress leader, wishing her a long life.

"Birthday greetings to Congress President... I pray for her long life and good health," Modi said in a tweet.

The Congress party also wished Gandhi. "Compassionate, hardworking, selfless. Calm and composed, yet dignified and strong. A force for empowerment against all odds."

"A mother, a leader, a friend. Wishing Congress President Sonia Gandhi a very happy birthday," a tweet from Congress' official account said.

Several senior Congress leaders, and scores of supporters thronged her residence at 10, Janpath, with music and even dance troupes performing.

The senior Congress leaders who visited the party chief included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, among others.

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat was even seen playing a drum, as dancers performed on the road outside 10, Janpath.

Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Union Ministers including Anand Sharma, Jyotiraditya Scindia and R.P.N. Singh, and party general secretaries including Janardan Dwivedi, Ambika Soni and Mohan Prakash were also present.

Congress' students' wing - National Students Union of India (NSUI) - carried out a 'Tiranga March' from India Gate to 24 Akbar Road, the national headquarter of Congress, to honour Sonia Gandhi.

The first phase of polling in the Gujarat Assembly elections was held on Saturday, with both ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress expressing confidence of winning the polls.

Rahul Gandhi, who is at present the Vice-President of the party, is set to take over as party President next week after his mother's 19-year-long stint as party head. The Gujarat polls, where Rahul Gandhi has been Congress' star campaigner, is being seen as a litmus test for the Gandhi scion.

Sonia Gandhi was born Sonia Maino to Stefano and Paola Maino on this day in 1946 in a small village near Vicenza, Italy.

She married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968. She took up Indian citizenship and began living with her mother-in-law, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, at the latter's New Delhi residence.

She stepped in as the party President in 1998, seven years after her husband's assassination. She has remained in office since. - IANS