Days after she made known her reservation about little time available before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections come knocking, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Tuesday said she is ready to play any role the party assigns her, and indicated that her concerns have been “sorted out”.
With the party pulling out all the stops to regain shape in the politically crucial state, sources maintained that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, for the first time, will campaign outside the Nehru-Gandhi pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli.
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Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress general secretary and UP in-charge, had a long meeting with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi Monday, and sources said a decision is round the corner. The party wants Priyanka to campaign extensively to fire up the rank and file, and to capture popular mind-space in a state where it has been an also-ran for long.
Priyanka is said to be agreeable to the idea but is averse to taking up any post officially.
Dikshit, meanwhile, said she is the “daughter-in-law” of UP, and that is a credential good enough if she is tasked with the job of leading the campaign in UP. Dikshit had earlier voiced certain reservations, including the short time left to make a difference, and had conveyed them to the Congress leadership.
Asked whether she is ready for another innings, the three-time Delhi CM said, “It is not a matter of being ready or not… Yes, I have expressed that the time available is short, but beyond that I have no choice. Whatever the party asks me to do, I will do it — like any soldier would.”
About her earlier concerns, Dikshit said that “doesn’t matter…we will sort it out. I believe they (party brass) have (already) sorted it out.”
On reports that she could be the face of the Congress campaign in the state, Dikshit said that she cannot “assume or presume things” until the party makes a formal announcement.
Election strategist Prashant Kishor, roped in to shape the Congress campaign, is learnt to have asked for a Brahmin face to lead the campaign. He believes that could help the party win back the upper caste support base. Senior leader Pramod Tiwari, former Union minister Jitin Prasada, former MP Rajesh Mishra are among the names being considered for the role.
Kishor has reportedly also asked for a chief ministerial face around whom he can tailor his campaign.
Asked whether her proximity to the Gandhi family and her being a Brahmin were an advantage, Dikshit said, “I am Uttar Pradesh’s daughter-in-law. I am married there…. I believe being the daughter-in-law is enough.”
Sources in the party and those close to Priyanka have rejected as speculation reports that she could lead the campaign. “She will campaign for sure, and perhaps for the first time outside Amethi and Rae Bareli. But beyond that, whatever is said is speculation,” a senior party leader said.
Dikshit said the questions such as division of work between her and Priyanka can be answered only after the party makes an official announcement. “If she joins (the campaign), it will be very welcome, because she is familiar with UP… She is the right person, she is very correct, she would be a great asset,” Dikshit said.
Denying that her age will come in the way of taking up any role, Dikshit said while there is a retirement age for those in government and private jobs, there is no age cut-off in politics.