Priyanka has her task cut out

Mil­lions of vot­ers in the state of UP are now used to an en­vi­ron­ment with­out the Con­gress

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Comment - SHASHI SHEKHAR

We are pass­ing through a unique time when me­dia head­lines i mpact the thought pro­cesses of people at all times. At this junc­ture, truth seems to be stuck be­tween the many con­tra­dic­tory ar­gu­ments we hear. If we look at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s join­ing ac­tive pol­i­tics in this per­spec­tive, many doubts and ques­tions will be re­solved.

There is noth­ing new about pol­i­tics for Priyanka. She has been born into a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Priyanka knows well that in chang­ing times, the way you speak and carry your­self may turn the tide in your favour. In 1999, when her close rel­a­tive and one time con­fi­dante of her father, Arun Nehru joined the elec­toral battle in Rae­bareli rid­ing on back of the lo­tus, it was she who had taken charge in the Con­gress. Rahul Gandhi had not joined ac­tive pol­i­tics and for Priyanka too, it was the first time she was ad­dress­ing the masses. At that time, she had made an emo­tional ap­peal to the people of Rae­bareli — will you vote for a per­son who stabbed my brother in the back? These words proved dis­as­trous for Arun Nehru. He came fourth in that elec­tions.

Those were tough times for the Gandhi fam­ily. PV Narasimha Rao, who was in power ear­lier in the decade had made some


sub­tle at­tempts to weaken the po­si­tion that the fam­ily en­joyed. Dur­ing that phase of tran­si­tion, the bright­est star in In­dian pol­i­tics, Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee was fast ap­proach­ing the pin­na­cle. And in Ut­tar Pradesh (UP), the in­flu­ence of Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav and Mayawati had led to the Con­gress shrink­ing in the state. The ma­jor­ity of the party looked up to So­nia Gandhi as a saviour. In these dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, Priyanka changed the game in her mother’s con­stituency.

In the same man­ner, she did not hes­i­tate in send­ing out a clear mes­sage to the coun­try and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by ac­com­pa­ny­ing her hus­band Robert Vadra to the En­force­ment Direc­torate this time around. The question that will now be asked is that whether as a Con­gress gen­eral sec­re­tary, she will be able to re­vive that magic?

The answer to this is not clear. The Con­gress faces a coali­tion of the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) and Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) in the state. The SP once used to be a pre-em­i­nent part of UPA-2. This new al­liance has in­flu­ence across the state. The BJP too has not only formed a ma­jor­ity govern­ment in Ut­tar Pradesh, but has also strength­ened its or­gan­i­sa­tion. In such a sit­u­a­tion, it’s very dif­fi­cult for the Con­gress to carve out a niche for it­self. More­over, the Con­gress’ or­gan­i­sa­tion in the state is thin on the ground. It has been al­most three decades since the party was in power in UP. Mil­lions of vot­ers are now used to a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment with­out the Con­gress. The party lacks young work­ers on the ground to in­flu­ence vot­ers. The se­nior Con­gress ac­tivists and work­ers who are left have a lim­ited cir­cle of in­flu­ence.

Not only this, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi him­self is there as the main ri­val. He is the Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from Varanasi. He is fir­ing on all cylin­ders to en­sure another shot at power. True, the BJP doesn’t en­joy as much pop­u­lar­ity as it did in 2014 but Modi has suc­ceeded in sal­vaging his rep­u­ta­tion by pre­sent­ing an at­trac­tive in­terim bud­get and of­fer­ing reser­va­tions for the poor among the up­per castes. Not only this, the BJP also has Amit Shah as its pres­i­dent whose or­gan­i­sa­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties are un­ques­tion­able. Shah has been vis­it­ing the booth work­ers in the dif­fer­ent parts of the state even be­fore Priyanka en­tered the arena. Modi ad­dresses the people di­rectly whereas Shah con­sol­i­dates the booths by mo­bil­is­ing party work­ers.

It’s clear that Priyanka has to grap­ple with var­i­ous is­sues. The prospects look dif­fi­cult but pol­i­tics is a game of pos­si­bil­i­ties. As I have said be­fore, per­son­al­i­ties are be­com­ing the face of ide­olo­gies in these dif­fi­cult times. Priyanka is no ex­cep­tion and the party has ap­pointed Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia as in-charge of west­ern UP to help her. Scin­dia is an ar­tic­u­late leader with an im­pres­sive per­son­al­ity. The Con­gress is go­ing to ad­dress the coun­try’s largest state on the strength of these two faces. It’s im­por­tant to note that in Bi­har, the party did not have any such im­pres­sive per­son­al­ity. De­spite this, the Con­gress or­gan­ised a mas­sive rally in the state on Fe­bru­ary 3. The rally was con­sid­ered the big­gest the party has held in 28 years.

Af­ter the vic­tory in three as­sem­bly elec­tions in De­cem­ber, the Con­gress has def­i­nitely been re-en­er­gised. But it will have to re­ally work hard to re­gain lost ground in the Hindi belt. In this sense, this week will prove to be de­ci­sive.


Priyanka knows well that the way you speak and carry your­self may turn the tide in your favour

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