Priyanka Gandhi
File photo of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra | PTI file photo/Nand Kumar
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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.


Also read: Four reasons why the classier, smarter Gandhi has finally joined politics


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.”

Flip side

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.


Also read: Protective Sonia & bodybuilder Robert Vadra have finally released Priyanka from purdah


 

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  1. The Congress will have the good sense not to damage the SP – BSP alliance. From the national perspective, it benefits more from reducing the BJP’s humongous 71 or 73 seats than from adding a few seats more to its own tally. 2. A psephologist would be better positioned to judge whether keeping the Congress out of the alliance helps the larger objective. My sense, as a lay observer, is that giving the Congress a respectable number of seats, say about ten or twelve, would have been a good idea. Ms Mayawati showed her stubborn side in R / M / C, depriving the Congress of simple majorities in two states. She may have been the obstacle in UP as well. No way she can become PM. However, she will be a tough, edgy customer to deal with. The Congress might need Shri Akhilesh Yadav’s good offices after the election to pacify her.

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