Priyanka Gandhi could soon be pitchforked as the top campaigner for the Congress in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh while veteran leader Shiela Dikshit is likely to be projected as the Chief Ministerial candidate in the key state.
Indications to this effect were available today with AICC leaders suggesting a formal nod is awaited from the Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s daughter. Speaking separately, Dikshit herself asserted that as the state’s “daughter-in-law” she was ready to play any role in the politically-crucial state.
AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh, has already favoured Priyanka getting pro-active in campaigning all over the state. He has also expressed possibility of the Congress projecting a CM candidate.
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At the Congress briefing today, party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala faced a volley of questions on Priyanka becoming the campaign chief of the party in Uttar Pradesh and Dikshit its Chief Ministerial candidate. Not ruling out both the possibilities, his reply was that Azad has given a “blueprint for action” to Sonia Gandhi on Uttar Pradesh and the party would make an announcement whenever a decision is taken.
Surjewala noted that so far Priyanka has been campaigning in Parliamentary constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli and it was for her to decide on canvassing support for the party all over the state. He said he would not speculate on the issue. “If and when any decision is taken regarding the role of Priyanka Gandhi,
we will share it with the media,” he said.
When asked whether Priyanka would participate more actively in Congress’ election campaign in UP, 78-year-old Dikshit said she would be a “great asset” and will be “welcomed”. “I can’t tell you what will happen. It would be too presumptuous on my part to assume things. If she joins she will very welcome because she is familiar with Uttar Pradesh. She will be a great asset,” Dikshit said.
Surjewala hailed Dikshit as a “very, very senior and seasoned” leader who has done “pioneering” work as Delhi Chief Minister. “The role and responsibility of any Congress leader is decided by the party President and Vice President”, he said adding that as and when a decision is taken, it will be made known.
Congress party’s election strategist Prashant Kishor is said to be in favour of a Brahmin as the party’s chief ministerial face in UP elections and is believed to have suggested Dikshit’s name. Kishor, who has been roped in by the Congress to help and assist the party in Uttar Pradesh, has reportedly suggested that if Rahul declines to lead the party in the state, Priyanka, by all means, should.
On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Satya Dev Tripathi had said that Priyanka will step out of her family pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli to campaign for the party all over the state. Talk in AICC gaining ground is that Rahul Gandhi would be elevated as Congress President sooner than later. A senior leader said that it could happen even before September.
Only last month, party leader Jairam Ramesh had said in an interview that “Rahul Gandhi is de facto Congress chief but he should become de jure” and make the party battle ready without waiting for anti-incumbency to build up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A senior party leader, who declined to be identified,
said that a change in the UPCC Chief is also on the cards. Nirmal Khatri is heading the state unit for the past few years.
Congress is in political wilderness in UP for the past more than 26 years which saw the emergence of Mandal and Mandir issues and the rise of BJP and BSP.