Rae Bareli/Lucknow (UP), Sep 12 (PTI) Faced with a stiff challenge to halt Congress's slide in Uttar Pradesh, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday began a tour of Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli constituency to energise workers for the electoral battle for UP scheduled early next year.

Priyanka Gandhi, during her meeting with party workers, said that the Congress this time, plans to declare candidates well in time for the state assembly elections, a party leader told PTI.

Beginning the two-day tour of her mother's parliamentary constituency, Priyanka Gandhi made the first pit stop at a Hanuman temple in Churuva on the Lucknow-Rae Bareli border, and offered prayers.

Rae Bareli, the bastion of the Gandhi family since the days of Indira Gandhi, has five assembly seats out of which two are with the Congress and the BJP each and one is with the Samajwadi Party.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi represents the Rae Bareli constituency in the Lok Sabha.

The parliamentary constituency of Rae Bareli consists of Bachhrawan (SC), Harchandpur, Rae Bareli, Sareni and Unchahar assembly segments.

In the 2017 UP assembly elections, the Congress registered wins in Harchandpur and Rae Bareli assembly constituencies. Rakesh Singh and Aditi Singh won from Harchandpur and Rae Bareli respectively. BJP's Ram Naresh Rawat won from Bachhrawan (SC) and Dhirendra Bahadur Singh won from Sareni.

Unchahar is represented in the state assembly by Manoj Kumar Pandey of the Samajwadi Party.

Elaborating on Priyanka Gandhi's meeting with party workers, spokesperson of the District Congress Committee of Rae Bareli Vinay Dwivedi told PTI, "Office bearers of the district unit and city unit of the party met Priyanka ji. Members of various frontal organisations, party candidates and zila panchayat members of the Congress also met her." At the meeting, she said that party candidates will be declared well in time as the declaration of candidates was rather late in the previous elections, Dwivedi said.

He added that the meeting which started on Sunday morning continued till evening.

"She also went to Tiloi in the neighbouring district of Amethi, after some party workers from Amethi informed her about an accident. She will tour a rural area of Rae Bareli before leaving for Lucknow," he said.

The Congress was reduced to seven seats in the 2017 UP assembly polls and now the grand old party is looking at the party secretary general for a turnaround in the heartland of politics.

The Congress's fortunes took a downward slide after the Ram Janmabhoomi issue took centre-stage in the early 90s.

Upon her arrival in Rae Bareli, Priyanka Gandhi was welcomed by party leaders and workers. Subsequently, she was welcomed by party workers and garlanded in Bachhravan, Harchandpur, Jagdishpur village and Civil Lines area of the city.

From here, her cavalcade proceeded towards the Bhuyemau guest house, UP Congress media panelist Priyanka Gupta said.

The neighbouring Amethi Lok Sabha constituency consists of the assembly segments of Tiloi, Salon (SC), Jagdishpur (SC), Gauriganj and Amethi.

In the 2017 elections in the state, the BJP emerged victorious in the constituencies of Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur and Amethi, while the SP registered a win from the Gauriganj assembly constituency.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tasted defeat at Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at the hands of Union minister Smriti Irani.