"Will Push You, Scold You": Priyanka Gandhi Leads Congress Prestige Battles

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reached Raebareli on Monday and held marathon meetings with local Congress leaders over the past two days.

'Will Push You, Scold You': Priyanka Gandhi Leads Congress Prestige Battles

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is camping in Raebareli to oversee the Congress's campaign

She may not be the candidate, but senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is leading from the front when it comes to the party's campaign in two prestige seats in Uttar Pradesh - Amethi and Raebareli. While her brother Rahul Gandhi is the candidate from Raebareli, Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma is the party's pick for the Amethi seat.

Ms Gandhi Vadra is scheduled to hold as many as nine nukkad sabhas today to mark the beginning of a whirlwind outreach campaign. The 52-year-old leader reached Raebareli on Monday and held marathon meetings with local Congress leaders in the Bhuemau guesthouse over the past two days.

In a meeting on Monday, Ms Gandhi Vadra is learnt to have told Congress workers that she "will not move from Raebareli till May 18". Both Raebareli and Amethi vote in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls on May 20.

"We have to fight Amethi and Raebareli strongly. Now, your 24 hours in a day belong to me. I will scold you, make you run, but stand strongly with you. The doors of my home are open for you round the clock. This election is an election to save the Constitution. The BJP wants to take away reservation benefits from you," Ms Gandhi Vadra told the meeting, according to Congress workers.

Since its first Lok Sabha election in 1952, the Congress has lost Raebareli just thrice -- in the post Emergency election in 1977 and in 1996 and 1998 elections. Veteran Congress leader Sonia Gandhi managed to win the seat despite a wave is support of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 and 2019 election. Mrs Gandhi has now moved to the Rajya Sabha owing to health issues. This time, the party has chosen to field Rahul Gandhi from its traditional stronghold that has been represented by Feroze Gandhi and Indira Gandhi in the past. He is up against Uttar Pradesh minister Dinesh Pratap Singh, who lost to Mrs Gandhi in the 2019 election by over 1.67 lakh votes.

In Amethi, the Congress faces a tougher fight. The seat, which has been represented by Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in the past, was won by Rahul Gandhi thrice in a row before he was defeated by the BJP's Smriti Irani in the 2019 election. Ms Irani, a Union minister, is the BJP's candidate this time and has been campaigning extensively much before the Congress announced its candidate. The BJP leader has said she is confident of a win this time too. "The fact that the Gandhis are not fighting in Amethi shows that even before a vote has been cast, they are losing from Amethi. If they had seen even a glimmer of hope, they would have contested and not put up a proxy candidate," Ms Irani told reporters after the Congress announced Mr Sharma as its candidate.

The grassroots leader, who has worked in Amethi and Raebareli as an MP's representative before, has said he wants an opportunity to serve the people of Amethi. "The people of Amethi are in my heart. I have been here for 40 years. I am following the direction of the top leadership. I just want people to give me a chance to serve them," Mr Sharma has said.