Home Opinion The fundamental flaw in Priyanka Gandhi’s Uttar Pradesh strategy 

The fundamental flaw in Priyanka Gandhi’s Uttar Pradesh strategy 

We don’t know who the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate is. Priyanka Gandhi or Ajay Kumar Lallu?

Shivam Vij
File photo of Priyanka Gandhi in Amethi | PTI

Shaktisinh Gohil, Congress leader from Gujarat, is the party’s Bihar and Delhi state union in-charge. Rajiv Satav of Maharashtra is in charge of Gujarat. Similarly, A. Chellakumar of Tamil Nadu is in charge of the Goa unit, and so on.

This mechanism makes sure that the central leader in charge of a state has an outsider’s view, does not have stakes in the local system (such as aspirations to hold political office in that state), and, as an outsider, is unable to overshadow a leader from that state.

This idea goes for a toss when Priyanka Gandhi becomes the Uttar Pradesh in-charge. She goes a step further and increases our confusion by taking to public campaigning in the state. If one is a voter in Uttar Pradesh, one is left wondering, who is the party’s chief ministerial candidate, Priyanka Gandhi or state president Ajay Kumar Lallu?

News of Priyanka Gandhi moving to Lucknow has been appearing and re-appearing seasonally like the monsoons. Just like Priyanka Gandhi entered politics after years of speculation, we have now learnt over and over again of Sheila Kaul’s house in Lucknow being renovated for the Congress state in-charge. In a way, the Congress way of doing politics is very Lakhnavi, cooking a slow dum biryani, while the nawabs play chess.


Also read: Priyanka Gandhi to move to Lucknow after vacating govt bungalow in Delhi: Congress leaders


Divide and rule

If and when Priyanka Gandhi does move to Lucknow, it will probably be as ceremonial a move as her once-in-a-blue-moon visit to the state organised so badly the cameras can’t even capture her. The move to Lucknow now looks like a best-possible reply to the Narendra Modi government taking away her Lodhi Estate bungalow. But will Priyanka Gandhi actually spend more time in Uttar Pradesh than in Delhi? So far she hasn’t shown that she’s willing to make such a sacrifice on her time with family and friends in Delhi.

Ceremonial or real, Priyanka Gandhi will definitely spend some time in Gokhale Marg as the Uttar Pradesh assembly election come closer. February 2022 is now less than two years away. The harder Priyanka Gandhi works for it, the more people will wonder if the party’s face is Gandhi or Lallu?

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To be sure, this question will only bother those in Uttar Pradesh who have some interest in the Congress party. And that’s not too many people. For all the media hype that Priyanka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath generate by taking on each other, UP 2022 is — as of now — largely a Yogi vs Akhilesh contest, Bharatiya Janata Party vs Samajwadi Party.

This is why the BJP is happy to give attention to Priyanka Gandhi. It wants to pretend its main competition is the Congress, so that the anti-BJP vote, especially the Muslim vote, remains firmly divided between the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress. This will make sure the BJP wins the election even if its vote-share comes down due to anti-incumbency.

Yogi versus who?

In such a situation, if any of the three opposition parties — SP, BSP, Congress — want to have even a semblance of a chance at defeating the BJP, they have only one option. A strong presidential-style campaign that makes it clear to every voter that the election is about deciding who’s better CM material: Yogi or Akhilesh? Yogi or Mayawati? Yogi or Ajay Kumar Lallu?

As is obvious, the weakest possibility there is Ajay Kumar Lallu. He’s a grassroots leader, but even if he has the potential to become a popular-statewide face, the looming shadow of Priyanka Gandhi won’t let him.

There is thus no option for Priyanka Gandhi but to state in as many words that she is the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh. If she fails to do that, then despite Yogi’s best efforts to promote her, the Congress party will still get fewer seats than the largest bus in Rajasthan.

By having her Communist student leader aide tweet about UP in shuddh Hindi, she can make media headlines but it doesn’t get the Congress party any traction in the streets of UP. By declaring herself as the CM candidate, Priyanka Gandhi will send out a strong message to voters in the state that the Congress party is serious about UP. That is what it will take for UP voters to even start thinking about the Congress as an option.

Priyanka Gandhi as a declared Congress CM candidate, spending at least five days a week in UP, will be Yogi Adityanath’s dream come true. He will do his best to make sure the state’s political conversation is all about Yogi versus Priyanka. The BSP and SP will be sidelined to the extent that voters won’t be able to tell who the BJP’s main opponent is.


Also read: Congress has split into three parties, and not one of them is good at politics


No guts, no glory

Priyanka Gandhi’s hesitation in declaring herself a CM candidate would be the risk. If she fails, the Congress ‘Brahmastra’ will officially be declared a damp squib. Yet if she doesn’t declare herself the CM candidate, she’s going to fail anyway.

The Congress party has been winning around 30-odd seats in the state assembly since 1993, until 2017 when it dipped to 7. That is where it is likely to stay with the Gandhi-or-Lallu confusion. For all that she’s investing in the state, Priyanka will then be declared a failure at par with brother Rahul. Remember, Rahul Gandhi had also taken it upon himself to ‘revive’ the party in the state when he first joined politics.

If Priyanka Gandhi campaigns as a CM candidate, many might want to give her a chance just out of curiosity. This will ensure that the Congress will at least be able to break out of its 30-seat stagnation. If the party can win even 50 seats, that’s more than what the party has ever won since 1991. Priyanka Gandhi can show that as achievement — incremental progress.


Also read: On UP’s political turf, a new rivalry is unfolding: Mayawati vs Priyanka Gandhi


The audacity of Indira

And it doesn’t have to be incremental progress. The Aam Aadmi Party went from being part of a movement in 2012 to having the Delhi CM’s chair in 2013. The BJP went from being out of the game in Uttar Pradesh to winning 71 of UP’s 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In the Uttar Pradesh assembly, the BJP went from 47 of 403 seats in 2012 to a stupendous 312 seats in 2017.

There’s no law that prohibits the Congress from increasing its tally in Uttar Pradesh from 7 seats in 2017 to 202 seats in 2022. That would need a transformative, disruptive, game-changing campaign. That disruption can only be Priyanka Gandhi showing the audacity to be the CM candidate.

It would no doubt take a lot of courage to do so, not to speak of hard work. Just because Priyanka Gandhi resembles her grandmother, doesn’t mean she has her courage too.

The author is contributing editor, ThePrint. Views are personal.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. When one talks about the Congress, describing anything that the party does, or proposes to do, as ‘Strategy’ is ridiculous. They have no such thing and their cadre as well as LEADERS only look to what “The Family” thinks. They then either parrot what RG or PGV say, or simply abuse and ridicule Modi. “That” is ALL the so called ‘strategy’ that the party has. Whether in UP or, Pondichery ( Biggest and smallest state)

  2. What do you mean by taking over her house. Is it the Vadras personal property. For all these years, a person who is not even a member of parliament has occupied this house and you say taking over. How low can you get to suck up to the fake Gandhis/Vadras

  3. ” There’s no law that prohibits the Congress from increasing its tally in Uttar Pradesh from 7 seats in 2017 to 202 seats in 2022″. No harm in dreaming. Lage raho

  4. The Print report has nothing inside it. The writer hasn’t an iota of insight into the not so far behind ways of the Congress. You forget that the party NOW is not into projecting a person but into creating a mass base with the strength to pull the Garhwal range into the Arabian sea. Priyanka Gandhi is the strategist bringing about the change among the masses to trust the Congress. Strong grassroots turn the tide. Strong tide brings in leaders worthy of a mention. Priyanka can play the stellar role of galvanizing the grassroots.
    Don’t forget she is the reason for Aditi Singh, the renegade whose dreams of heading the Congress came a cropper, once Lallu was declared the chosen to that gaddi. Aditi was her family’s ladle in the Congress. Now she is nowhere, except for the occasional Me-ow that the starved Indian media echoes.
    Don’t worry if Priyanka does not jump onto the CM hopefuls bandwagon. Hold your breath, check if she is moving UP electorate to vote 225 seats for the Congress and wash the saffron into the Ganga.

  5. Priyanka Gandhi for Chief Minister?
    Does she have any administrative experience?
    She has not administered even a chai ka thela in her life – straight to CM post? Based on what credentials? “I am a Gandhi” – is that her experience for the job?

  6. Why is the possibility that Smt Priyanka twitter Vadra might move to Lucknow for a few days every month, such a big new for the media?

  7. Nobody should worry about priyanka’s strategy in UP…..Either lallu or priyanka will find their path in UP..You may please worry only about how strategy of 56 inch failed in LADAK…….Because we elected him to save our motherland from chinese not to surender….Yes ….Surender……

  8. “Narendra Modi government taking away her Lodhi Estate bungalow.” – Does the author believe the the Bungalow belong to Priyanka? What a shame from this woke-left camp author

  9. There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

    Above lines by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar are apt for this situation. It is an inflection point for PGV in politics and Congress party in general. Modi is personally unassailable at the centre for now but the BJP is vulnerable at the state level. If the congress is serious about maintaining it’s national party status, PGV has to take the plunge – no ifs and buts. Do or die trying. There will be no second chances.

    Except Tamil Nadu, Kerala & J&K all votes are either BJP voters or Congress voters. The so called third front is powerful Congress leaders breaking away to form their own outfits and breaking the Congress votes in the bargain. The congress must make a herculean effort to get those back – even if it means sacrificing 2-3 national elections to avoid gatbandhan.

  10. Those who are advising Priyanka Gandhi to shift to lucknow are just naïve or just want to mislead her . She has never fought any election through out her life. And asking her to try her luck as the face of party or CM face is in UP is like advising a young aspiring mother having first pregnancy to jump to ground from 20th floor of a tall skyscraper ..

    Best thing would have been to ask her to settle in a muslim majority city, in muslim majority district in any of the state of India where Hindus are in minority. Areas like of Malabar , waywand in kerala , Kishanganj in Bihar etc are best for her to try to settle and try her luck. Her worthy brother RG was able to enter in Loksabha in May 2019 by adopting this strategy. . The nationalist Hindus , mainly in Hindi speaking areas , are not going to vote for Congress party in any future election.

    The news of accepting donations from China government agencies by Family owned and controlled trust –Rajiv Gandhi foundation – has dented their image further.

    As far as number of seats which Congress party may win in UP in next election will be
    Equal to number of seats it won in election to legislative assembly of Delhi. This prediction does not require costly psephological survey or psephological gymnastics. Read .Read care fully –writing is on every wall in Utter Pradesh.

  11. ” shoe i am” you STUPIDO. INDIA’s son i law will be our CM candidate. now start canvassing ISO writing stupid columns.

  12. How can there be a flaw in Priyanka’s UP strategy, Shivam? Are you sane?
    Did you leave the studies halfway in the Gandhi University of Insanity?

  13. Does PriyanaG actually have a Uttar Pradesh “strategy”?
    What’s the strategy? Threaten everyone by saying “I am Indira’s granddaughter”, occupy a Govt bungalow for super cheap rent for the next 50 years and ensure that her kids get the same “entitlement” because they are “Gandhis”?
    Nice strategy for the undeserving privileged.

  14. Don’t be too prejudiced. People are silent but they have realized true face of current people in power. Reporters should report carefully to prevent their own embarrassment later

  15. Priyanka Gandhi herself is a fundamental flaw in her own strategy.

    Only hope of a Congress revival is for them to divorce themselves from the party.

  16. The Gandhi’s have already faced enough embarassment by doing extremely badly in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. I could sense this move coming for some time as Priyanka has only been focussing on UP for a while. U r absolutely right that Priyanka’s entry is only going to increase the chances of BJP coming back to power more strongly due to split votes. But looking at states such as Andhra, West Bengal, Delhi, Orrissa where Congress has made itself completely irrelevant, Priyanka’s entry is a very good move worth the risk. She may not be able to win seats, will play a spoiler to Akhilesh but then this is politics

  17. It is evident that ‘The Print’ will keep updating Priyanka Dynasty since it is paid by Congress.BJP will be back in UP with total majority.

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