Battleground Uttar Pradesh: Challenges await Priyanka Gandhi as Congress readies Lok Sabha charge

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Updated: February 4, 2019 1:31:01 PM

Priyanka's entry is expected to boost the Congress party's campaign in the state where it has faced near decimation in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Challenges await Priyanka Gandhi as Congress readies Lok Sabha charge (File)

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be taking charge as All India Congress (AICC) General Secretary of eastern Uttar Pradesh in the next few days, marking the official plunge of the Gandhi scion into electoral politics. The official takeover is expected after a joint press conference with her brother, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in Lucknow. The move has been widely seen as Congress’ trump card for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Priyanka’s induction into active politics was announced on January 23, with Rahul announcing the East UP post for her – a region where both PM Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi and Yogi Adityanath’s five-time winning constituency Gorakhpur lies. Jyotiraditya Scindia is the general secretary of Uttar Pradesh West.

Earlier it was reported that the party has chosen February 4 as a possible date for her induction as the date coincides with “Mauni Amavasya” and the second shahi snan of Kumbh Mela. Another proposed date was February 10, however, the exact date is not yet known.

Priyanka’s entry is expected to boost the Congress party’s campaign in the state where it has faced near decimation in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. No stranger to the state, Priyanka has campaigned for UPA chairperson Sonia and brother Rahul from Amethi and Rae Bareli of Uttar Pradesh and has been a regular in the party headquarters in New Delhi. However, this is the first time that Priyanka will be holding a key post in the party.

Uttar Pradesh sends the most number of MPs to the Parliament – among the 80 parliamentary seats from the state, BJP has set its sights at around 75 seats this year. 26 of those seats are from UP East. In 2009, while Congress bagged 21 of those 26 seats, in 2014 it was reduced to 2 – when BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections. Appointing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at such a juncture of the Lok Sabha polls is widely seen as a stroke by Rahul Gandhi to resurrect the party’s fortunes.

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However, the road to redemption will not be easy. There are a number of challenges that await Priyanka as she goes on and about her bid to resurrect the Congress’ political fortunes. And the challenges do not come just in the form of the BJP. Despite opinion polls suggesting a dip in PM Narendra Modi’s popularity in the state due to lack of employment opportunities, demonitisation, impact of GST, Priyanka has an uphill task to get Dalit, Muslim and Brahmin voters back into its fold.

The alliance between arch rivals BSP and SP of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, respectively, is perhaps the biggest challenge Priyanka faces. While Mayawati is set to woo the Dalit votes (20%), Brahmins (10%) have sided with the BJP recently and Muslims (18%) are likely to be wooed by the SP. This forms a significant chunk of the vote base and winning them back over will be difficult for the Priyanka, especially since the BSP and SP ditched Congress to form an alliance.

The entry of Priyanka in politics has created ripples across the political scenario of the country, with BJP leaders taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi for not being able to handle the party alone, to inducting Priyanka for the task. Subramanian Swamy even described her as “bipolar”. However, her entry into politics is also expected to provide a much-needed morale boost to the party workers across the nation. Whether it translates into electoral wins is one thing which will be watched very closely.

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