Ten days after two regional socialist parties in Uttar Pradesh kept Congress out of their alliance in the upcoming general elections, the grand old party’s chief Rahul Gandhi played the trump card by appointing his charismatic sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as general secretary in charge of eastern UP.
Priyanka, who is on an overseas tour, is expected to take office from the first week of February.
Reports say Priyanka may contest from Rae Bareli which is represented by her mother and chairperson of United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi.
Priyanka’s sudden plunge into active politics on Wednesday is expected to galvanise Congress which was in trouble after some 23 opposition parties formed a grand coalition under Bengal Chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Jan 19.
Priyanka, 47, can draw crowds and she had been campaigning for her mother Sonia Gandhi and Rahul over the past few years.
Rumours about Priyanka taking up a senior position in Congress were going rounds for some time and they gained momentum after recent reports that she is writing a non-fiction book which was seen as a prelude to her entry into politics.
Since party after party in the opposition distanced itself from Congress over forming electoral alliance, doubts were raised about Rahul’s leadership. He made a timely move by asking his sister to organise the cadres in eastern UP ahead of the national elections.
He appointed another young leader and friend Jyotiraditya Scindia as in-charge of western UP.
Since Congress is not forming any alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP, seat-sharing does not arise and it will be contesting all the 80 seats.
Elections campaigns in UP are significant for every party. It is said that the party that wins majority seats in UP will rule India.
It remains to be seen how far Priyanka will be able to inspire the voters in eastern UP.
Priyanka has a winning smile and she resembles her grandmother, former prime minister, Indira Gandhi. Old-time voters in UP still respect the Gandhi family that produced prime ministers like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi.
If the Rahul-Priyanka team clicks, BJP has reason to worry. The saffron party may not be able to sweep the polls as it did in 2014.
The SP-BSP alliance is expecting to draw a large chunk of votes from UP’s backward classes, Yadavs, Dalits and Muslims. With Priyanka on the forefront, Congress too will be hoping to win more seats.
Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra congratulated her in a Facebook post on Wednesday by writing he will always be by her side in every phase of her life.
Senior Congress leader Motilal Vohra said Priyanka’s appointment will make a positive impact in the political landscape not only in eastern Uttar Pradesh but also in other regions in the state.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said Priyanka’s entry into politics is a sign of Rahul’s failure as a leader to keep other opposition parties in good humour. Now Congress needs a crutch and the induction of Priyanka is a desperate act by the party.
It shows Congress is promoting one more member of the Gandhi dynasty. For Congress, the family is the party whereas for BJP, the party is the family, Patra said.