Priyanka was a star campaigner in 2014 in her mother’s and brother’s constituencies Rae Bareli and Amethi.
New Delhi: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, for long considered the Congress’ “trump card”, finally made her formal entry into politics on Wednesday from Uttar Pradesh, sending a strong signal that the party will leave no stone unturned in its fight against the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party in 2019 general elections.
Ms Vadra’s appointment — as general secretary for Uttar Pradesh east, along with that of Jyotiradiya Scindia as general secretary UP west — is being seen as a political masterstroke with the message that Congress president Rahul Gandhi means business. Uttar Pradesh sends the largest MPs (80) to Lok Sabha and is considered crucial to coming to power at the Centre.
On the back foot after the SP-BSP formed a pre-poll alliance in UP excluding his party, the Congress president had promised a “surprise” in UP, and with the formal appointment of Ms Vadra, Mr Gandhi has shot the “Brahmastra” from the party’s quiver. It was, however, unclear whether the latest Gandhi family scion to enter politics will contest the Lok Sabha polls. Speculation is rife that she might take the plunge from her mother Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli constituency.
Commenting on her appointment, Mr Gandhi, who is in Amethi, said, “I am very happy that my sister Priyanka will assist me in UP in the Lok Sabha polls. She is very capable.” Ms Vadra is New York and is expected to return to India on February 1.
The bold organisational shake-up also saw Mr Gandhi anointing Mr Scindia as the general secretary in-charge for Uttar Pradesh west and the party’s Karnataka in-charge K.C. Venugopal as the general secretary in-charge of organisation, replacing Ashok Gehlot who has taken over as the chief minister of Rajasthan. The earlier general secretary in-charge of UP, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been given the charge of Haryana.
The other bold message in Ms Vadra’s appointment as in-charge of Uttar Pradesh east is that she will be taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an MP from Varanasi, and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, an ex-MP from Gorakhpur, in their turf and Mr Gandhi indicated as much when he said the Congress won’t “play on the backfoot anywhere”.
“We didn’t do it in Gujarat or anywhere else and we won’t do it here in UP,” he said.
“I am not sending Priyanka and Jyotiraditya for just two months, but have given a mission to take ahead the true ideology of the Congress to take the poor and deprived sections of society along,” he said, adding, “I feel that this step will usher in a new kind of thinking and bring a positive change in Uttar Pradesh politics.”
The Congress president, however, remained soft on the SP and BSP saying the two parties have formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh to defeat the BJP. “I have no animosity against them. I have to take forward Congress ideology and make place for Congress philosophy in Uttar Pradesh”.
The appointment of Ms Vadra and Mr Scindia also gives credence to the theory that the Congress will be largely targeting upper caste votes in Uttar Pradesh to cut into the BJP base.
Though Ms Vadra’s entry has given an immediate shot in the arm to the Congress workers, it is also true that she has been active in Amethi, Rae Bareli for years, including during the 2017 Assembly polls in UP, and has not made much difference.
It remains to be seen whether the Congress’ bold gambit will pay off in the toughest electoral battle the party is facing in its history.