Updated: July 4, 2016 12:43:30 pm
After every electoral defeat the Congress Party faces, voices from within the party’s organisation – especially in Uttar Pradesh – demand that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra take charge.
Party workers who’ve been dedicatedly chanting “Priyanka lao, Congress bachao” could finally emerge victorious. On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Satya Dev Tripathi confirmed that Priyanka will step out of her family pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli to campaign for the party. Her role, however, will be decided only after her brother and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi returns from a visit abroad. He’s likely to be back in the national capital this week.
The official announcement is likely later this month at an AICC meeting where Priyanka will be appointed as the party’s chief campaigner in that state. It is also expected that the much-awaited elevation of Rahul could also take place.
This, however, is not the first time Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is visibly active in Congress affairs. Priyanka used to attend Congress strategy meetings related to Uttar Pradesh earlier too, and would sometimes be present in meetings at Rahul Gandhi’s residence and provide her inputs.
However, this time, there is a marked shift. Priyanka is learnt to have been holding regular meetings with newly appointed AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, often at his South Avenue residence, to decide on party strategy, and is said to be keen on tie-ups with smaller parties.
Priyanka’s regular involvement and attention has prompted party leaders to believe that she would play a key role in Assembly polls in the politically significant state next year and pull the party out of the current morass. Moreover, when the party had hired strategist Prashant Kishore to revamp its poll campaign, he had suggested that if Rahul declines to lead the party in that state, Priyanka by all means should, if the party hopes to see any electoral success in the March 2017 polls.
Rahul Gandhi failed?
The move to bring in Priyanka, however, could give the BJP fresh political salvo. While the BJP government in Haryana has stepped up its attack on Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra, in Delhi, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra questioned whether the move to push Priyanka forward was after the Congress Party finally came to the realisation that Rahul Gandhi has failed in electoral politics.
“Congress is eager to bring in Priyanka Gandhi for Uttar Pradesh, it is their internal matter. It makes three things clear. One is that the Congress can never come out of its family, they even want leadership in Gandhi family. Congress’ attempt to bring in Priyanka shows that Rahul Gandhi has failed. If Rahul had succeeded that there would not have been called Priyanka,” Patra told reporters.
As far as Vadra is concerned, the Congress Party has shifted its position on him. While the party would earlier refer to Vadra as a private citizen, over the last few months it has come out in defence of him, challenging the Modi government to prove allegations of financial discrepancies in land deals. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who otherwise refrains from public comments, stepped out to defend Vadra saying it was mere political vendetta.
“It is all part of a conspiracy of Congress-mukt Bharat. Such things are happening on a daily basis. Excuses are being made, false charges are being levelled. Bina bhed bhav ke jaanch karao taaki doodh ka doodh paani ka paani ho jaaye (get a fair inquiry conducted without any bias to make things clear),” Sonia said during a visit to Rae Bareli last month.
Uttar Pradesh strategy
With polls less than a year away, the Congress Party is hoping 2017 is when it can finally make a turnaround in that state. With Priyanka frequently meeting party leaders as well as Prashant Kishore, the signal is clear that she’s taking charge of the state that the Congress has lost political significance in.
Once the official announcement is made, the Congress Party will unfold its UP poll campaign that will see Priyanka campaign across the state. Speaking to The Hindu, Tripathi said: “It will be a mind blowing campaign. From our calculations she (Priyanka) will cover an average of 2.5 assembly constituencies in the next six months.”
In the 2012 elections, the Congress Party won 28 seats in the 403-member House, up six from the 22 it won in 2007. Its biggest drubbing, however, came in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where it managed to win only two seats – Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli constituency and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi constituency. Back then, Priyanka refused to step out of these two constituencies and campaign. Will the party’s fortunes change this time?
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