Kept out of the SP-BSP ‘mahagathbandhan’, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had promised a surprise for Uttar Pradesh. And true to his word, he did deliver the “surprise” with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s appointment as general secretary in-charge of eastern UP. Her entry into active politics is aimed at galvanizing the party workers, who were apprehensive following the SP-BSP alliance.
Priyanka, 47, has long been considered Congress’ ‘brahmastra’ – the ultimate weapon – and her formal entry into politics much awaited. Though Congress has been somewhat cautious by not giving her charge of the entire state or giving her a role at the national level, the message is loud and clear – that the party is not on the back-foot, having been kept out of the mahagathbandhan and that it is taking the fight to BJP’s turf. It is a message of confidence and combativeness from the Congress.
East UP has not been a Congress stronghold with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being elected from Varanasi and Gorakhpur considered chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s bastion even though the BJP lost the seat in by-elections. Priyanka has been campaigning in the region during earlier elections but restricting herself to family-held constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Congressmen say that she is likely to spend a considerable time in Varanasi and Gorakhpur, prepping up party workers and campaigning extensively.
By fielding Priyanka, Congress has shown that it is in the race for UP and it is not backing off. UP is the most crucial state politically with the maximum number of 80 Lok Sabha seats. BJP had won 71 seats in 2014 and its tally was 73 with two seats of ally Apna Dal. Even in the forthcoming elections, UP is likely to remain at the centre stage of political theatrics. With the entry of Priyanka, the fight just became more interesting.