Priyanka's Handling Of UP So Far Should Worry Congress

Published: March 15, 2019 20:38 IST
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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, seen by many in the Congress as the imprint of Indira Gandhi, is often described adoringly by them as the party's "brahmastra" (ultimate weapon).

She was launched into this election's war zone by her brother and Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, on January 22 this year, when he named her Congress General Secretary (Eastern UP) while she was abroad. 

The wisdom and efficacy of an absentee launch is debatable specially when India is gripped by the spectacle of the go-big-or-go-home events that Modi and Shah choreograph for their big election announcements - in fact, they do this deftly even for smaller ones, lending a ho-hum event the sense of far more importance than it carries.

Upon return, "PGV" as she is known dropped off husband and controversial businessman Robert Vadra to the Enforcement Directorate for interrogation en route to get first official visit to the Congress headquarters in Delhi, ensuring cameras and headlines stayed with her.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vardra dropped Robert Vadra at the ED offices in Delhi

But that appears to have been the only manoeuver worth commemorating thus far in her political debut. Her cause has not been helped by Vadra's broad hints on a near-daily basis that he is ready to embrace a public role and contest the elections.

About four weeks ago, the Gandhi siblings held a roadshow in UP together accompanied by a grim-looking Jyotiraditya Scindia (who has been appointed General Secretary, Western UP). Scindia has been shoe-horned into UP politics after his ambition to be Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh was thwarted by Kamal Nath. He is expected to find succour in being PGV's purported equivalent in the crucial state of UP.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra drew big crowds in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow as she launched her campaign for the national election with a roadshow 

With three weeks to go for general elections, PGV had cancelled three trips to Uttar Pradesh. Now, a boat ride is planned for her on the Ganga. Curiously, while she is entrusted with Uttar Pradesh, she made her debut speech as General Secretary in Gujarat where the Congress Working Committee was held this week. Again, the admirers within the party offered the breathless comparisons to Indira Gandhi.

What they should be pondering is that like her brother, are they now stuck with another reluctant or occasional politician? After the initial huge amounts of newsprint and breathless channel coverage of her debut, she vanished from the headlines before her return. Then, a trip to Meerut to meet Chandrashekhar "Raavan", the Bhim Army chief, made Mayawati so furious that she lashed out and announced publicly that she would not ally with the Congress across the country.

There is the theory that PGV intended to signal to Mayawati that in Chandrashekhar, the Congress has a charismatic Dalit leader who it can turn to when spurned by her. But it may not be a wise dare. Given the years she has spent managing Amethi and Raebareli for her mother and brother, PGV cannot be oblivious to the conspiracy theory about the Bhim Army and its affiliation and funding. Chandrashekhar started his politics as a student activist of the RSS and senior BSP and SP politicians hold that the RSS has created, or at least covertly funds, the Bhim Army as a counter and check to Mayawati, much like what Amit Shah has done with Akhilesh Yadav's estranged uncle Shivpal who has founded a party to cut into the votes of the Akhilesh Yadav-Mayawati alliance.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra meeting Chandrashekhar Azad is likely to send out a pointed message to Dalits

Chandrashekhar before the PGV visit had always maintained that his outfit would not enter politics and it was confined to social activism for Dalit rights. Now Chandrashekhar has decided to contest against Modi in Varanasi who will be delighted with this newbie opponent. Chandrashekhar has also announced his intention to field candidates where he says the BSP candidate is weak. This is a move that will weaken Mayawati and the alliance and thrill the BJP.

Says a furious BSP leader, "if Priyanka-ji knows so much about politics, she should fight the elections. Not hurt the opposition. Bhim Army will only cut our votes. Does she know of their RSS past? We have come together to save India and the Congress is just on a giant ego trip. Behen-ji may now field candidates in Amethi and Raebareli (as revenge)."

To date, the Congress does not have the nuts and bolts of a functioning campaign. The BJP has "Modi hai toh mumkim hai" as their slogan and tag line playing on loop in the country and the Congress 
does not even have a slogan yet. Reminder - only three weeks to go for voting.

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Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during her first political speech in Gujarat

PGV has visited UP twice and not exactly set the Gomti on fire. Ace election strategist Prashant Kishor told me that her debut was done in "typical Congress style". He refused to elaborate on whether this meant it was good or bad.

Congress leaders who were hoping that she would contest the elections by taking on a senior BJP leader in a Big Bang contest are disappointed. The Congress barely exists on the ground in UP and an epic battle would have at least dramatised it in the headlines.

While the BJP is fighting to win, the latest thrill of the Congress party is that PGV has finally tweeted. Someone please remind them an election needs to be fought.

(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.



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