Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today underscored his respect for Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav - the two top opposition leaders in Uttar Pradesh - who are likely to see its move to place Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at the driver's seat in eastern Uttar Pradesh as a mark of belligerence.
While the BJP has sent its good wishes to Priyanka Gandhi, both opposition leaders have maintained silence.
"We have no enmity against Akhilesh and Mayawati. I respect Mayawati and Akhilesh and we are willing to cooperate. Our aim is to defeat the BJP. No problem if they want to talk with us," Mr Gandhi said today, after announcing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry to active politics from party bastion Amethi.
Reiterating that the Congress won't "play on the backfoot anywhere", he said, "We didn't do it in Gujarat or anywhere else and we won't do it here in UP".
The Congress move comes days after the UP leaders announced an alliance for the state that left out the Congress. The two leaders pointed out that their decision was made in view of the ground situation, which indicated that Congress could not bring much to the table.
"There is not much benefit to us from allying with the Congress. We have decided that we will not tie up with a party like the Congress across the country where they can't transfer votes to us," said Mayawati, who is known to have been upset with Congress over when the talks for seat sharing fell through in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh ahead of the recent assembly elections.
At the time, Mr Gandhi, who was in Dubai, had made it clear that the Congress will make its way, that it has "lots to offer to the people of Uttar Pradesh".
"I have tremendous respect for the leaders of the BSP and Samajwadi Party, and recognise that they have the right to do what they want. It's on us to strengthen the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, and we will fight to our full capacity," he said.
Within days, the party made an aggressive announcement - that it would contest all 80 seats in the state. Indicating that they are taking the UP run seriously, the party today changed its top order in the state. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was given charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, where lies Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's Gorakhpur.
Western Uttar Pradesh has put under Jyotiraditya Scindia, close aide of Rahul Gandhi, who had a big role to play in the recently concluded elections in Madhya Pradesh.
The party said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entrance to active politics from Uttar Pradesh will revitalize the workers, who have rooting for her for long. Senior party leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, "For fifteen twenty years people have been asking her to join politics... This is a huge boost for the Congress party".
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