For the upset workers in the Gandhi stronghold of Raebareli, today will be a big day as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her brother Rahul Gandhi come campaigning. For Ms Gandhi Vadra, this would be the first campaign of this election in Uttar Pradesh. Unlike other elections, when she is seen to exercise her great crowd-connect, this time she had so far been in the backroom - in a first, her party has credited her with playing a pivotal part, rescuing the crucial alliance with Samajwadi Party when it was on the verge of collapse.
- Priyanka Gandhi does not hold an official position in the party
- Amethi goes to polls on February 27, Rae Bareli on February 23
- Congress claims she negotiated seat deal with SP in Amethi and Rae Bareli
Ms Gandhi Vadra does not hold an official position in the party. But Congress sources said there has been a huge demand from workers and leaders that she lead the campaign and not confine herself to the Gandhi family turf of Amethi and Rae Bareilly. Ms Gandhi-Vadra has so far refused to play a pro-active role and has been helping guide the campaign from her brother's Tughlak Lane home.
The Congress said that she negotiated with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav when the row of seat division in Amethi and Raebareli had brought the alliance talks to a stalemate. It was resolved by allotting 5 assembly seats each to the Congress and the Samajwadi Party across the two Lok Sabha constituencies.
There have been jibes from BJP's Union Minister Smriti Irani about Ms Gandhi Vadra's non-appearance in this campaign. The Congress's star campaigner, she said, was trying to avoid "people's questions" about the "unfulfilled promises" of the Congress.
The Congress has said Ms Gandhi Vadra is initially expected to go canvassing for the 10 party candidates in Amethi and Raebareli. Later, she might also appear for the joint caldidates of the alliance. But it is for her to decide, the party had indicated.
Amethi goes to polls on February 27, Rae Bareli on February 23. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is yet to hit the campaign trail due to health issues, but she is expected to address a Raebareli on February 20.