Amethi: With UPA president Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by his side, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday filed his nomination papers for the Amethi Lok Sabha seat at the Collectorate here.
Rahul was also accompanied by Priyanka's husband Robert Vadra and their two children to send a message that the entire family gives much importance to the Congress bastion, party leaders said.
Speaking to reporters after filing his nomination papers, Rahul challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an open debate on the Rafale issue and demonetisation.
"Debate on Rafale, corruption and note ban," he said, buoyed by the Supreme Court order earlier in the day.
In a setback to the Centre, the apex court allowed leaked documents to be relied upon by petitioners seeking review of its Rafale judgment and dismissed the government's preliminary objections claiming "privilege" over them.
The three-time Congress MP from Amethi will take on Union Minister and BJP nominee Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha election in virtually a direct contest as the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh has decided not to field a candidate from the seat.
This time, the Congress president is contesting a second seat, Wayanad, in Kerala where he had filed his papers on April 4.
Congress general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was with his party chief, said, "Sometime ago the prime minister's interview had come, a structured interview, (he) told news persons that the SC has given a clean chit, etc."
"Now the SC has made it clear that 'chowkidarji' has committed a theft. (It has) accepted that there is some corruption in Rafale. I have been saying so since months if investigations are done there are two names - Narendra Modi and (Anil) Ambani.
"I am happy and I have been saying so for months that 'Hindustan PM' has given air force money to Anil Ambani and the SC has accepted it. The SC is going to investigate it," Scindia said.
The government has repeatedly denied any corruption in the Rafale deal.
"I want to directly challenge (you, Modi)... The SC has said that you have indulged in corruption. Come let's debate...Country wants to know about corruption, Rafale deal, demonetisation and (BJP president) Amti Shah's son," Rahul said.
"In the Rafale case, the 'chokidarji' knows the date he debates with me on corruption, he will not be able to see eye to eye with me. I want to thank the SC. It's a very happy day. The SC has talked about justice. Justice has prevailed," he said.
The Congress chief and his family were greeted by party workers, who gathered in the city, despite hot weather conditions, to get a glimpse of their leaders.
On the day her brother filed his nomination for Amethi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the constituency was her father's "karmabhoomi" and its land was sacred for her family.
"Some relationships are from the heart. Today, the whole family was present for my brother's nomination. This was my father's 'karmabhoomi', it is sacred land for us," Priyanka, who is Congress' general secretary in-charge Uttar Pradesh east, tweeted.
Before filing his documents at the Collectorate at Gauriganj, Rahul embarked on a three-km-long roadshow in an open vehicle.
On his way, crowds on both sides of the road showered rose petals and marigold flowers on him and cheered for the Congress chief, who waved back at them.
Surging crowds of Congress supporters walked along Rahul's vehicle as it made its way to the Collectorate through areas in Munshiganj, Darpipur and Gauriganj.
Since morning, Congress supporters, wearing tricolour caps and scarves, were out on the streets holding placards and posters in preparation for their party president's visit.
They raised slogans and often broke into impromptu dance at the beat drums.The streets were lined with Congress flags, and hoardings and posters with pictures of Rahul and party general secretary UP East Priyanka Gandhi.
Some banners read 'Vikas ki andhi, Priyanka Gandhi' and 'Amethi ka sansad, desh ka PM'.
Enthusiastic youngsters on motorcycles moved around making videos of the event on their mobile phones.
UPA chairperson Sonia, who was not part of the roadshow, reached the Collectorate to back her son. She will file her nomination papers from neighbouring Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency on Thursday.
BJP's Smriti Irani is likely to file her nomination papers on Thursday. In the 2014 general elections, Irani was defeated by Rahul by over one lakh votes.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is scheduled to hold a roadshow at the same place as Rahul's roadshow and also a public meeting in support of Irani on Thursday.
Amethi goes to polls on May 6 in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections.