Congress strategists believe Priyanka Vadra will help the party transcend caste divides in Uttar Pradesh, and replicate its 2009 performance.
New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi had decided to bring sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into active politics right after the party’s victory in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh last month.
But the decision to entrust her with the charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh was taken after the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) left the Congress out of their alliance for Lok Sabha elections 10 days back, said Congress leaders privy to the deliberations.
The story behind her foray into active politics also outlines the Congress’ strategy in Uttar Pradesh, which had elected NDA MPs on 73 of the 80 seats in 2014.
Earlier, the Congress was hoping to piggyback on the SP and the BSP to undermine the BJP in UP. But now, the party has decided to go for the jugular and try to replicate its 2009 performance, when it had won 21 Lok Sabha seats (plus one more later).
Priyanka is known to establish an instant rapport with voters, especially the youth and women, but the jury is out on whether this could convert to seats for the Congress in what is now set to be a three-cornered contest.
“Post the SP-BSP alliance, we were completely out of the game and had to even struggle to get Muslims to vote for us. Who would come to a party that was out of the fight even before it started? Now, we are back in the game,” a senior Congress functionary from UP told ThePrint.
Who might Priyanka sway?
Congress strategists believe Priyanka’s persona will help the party transcend caste divides and fetch votes from all sections of the society. They also argue that her entry will “damage” the BJP and help “secular parties”, as she could split the BJP’s vote-bank among upper castes and the youth, especially those who are feeling disillusioned with the BJP.
“They were upset with the BJP but were not willing to vote for caste-based parties such as the SP and the BSP, which have a poor track record in governance. They would have gone back to the BJP grudgingly as the Congress wasn’t seen in the fight at all,” said a former Congress MP.
“Priyanka Vadra’s entry has changed it now, as they would see a BJP-versus-Congress fight for the national elections.”
However, there is a flip side. If, as Congress leaders claim, a large section of Muslims were to vote for the grand old party, the BJP’s principal challenger nationally, it could also undermine the SP and the BSP, which are banking on Muslims to come together with Yadavs and Dalits to give them a clear edge.
As it is, the Congress party’s so-called ‘brahmastra’ is still untested electorally, and may cut both ways in a multi-cornered contest.
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