Priyanka Gandhi’s spirited efforts fail to revive Congress in Uttar Pradesh

By P Sweta

Delhi: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi has put in spirited efforts while leading the party’s campaign for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. For many weeks now, Gandhi has been travelling across the state while trying to rebuild the party structure that has been in a state of decline for the past two decades. It is perhaps an achievement in itself that the Congress is putting up candidates in all 403 seats.

Priyanka Gandhi speaking with women groups in UP

Perhaps for the first time in her political career, Priyanka Gandhi has taken full ownership for any state election, and the party’s campaign strategy shows her definite mark, with focus on women voters. The party’s ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign did make a splash in the media and the Nari Shakti Samvad was also a novel means to target women voters. By sticking to her promise of giving 40% tickets to women candidates, Priyanka Gandhi has shown her commitment towards women’s empowerment and it was believed that this would help the Congress win back part of the crucial women voters. 

The party  has also brought out separate manifestos for the women and the youth in an effort to win them over. Promises to women include 40% job reservation, while overall the  party  has promised to create 20 lakh jobs for the youth. Congress has also promised Rs 5 lakh collateral-free loan to youth aspiring to become entrepreneurs. 

However, with days to go for the first round of vote, it is clear that the Congress campaign has lost steam. Observers feel it would be an achievement if the party is able to cross its tally of 7 in the outgoing Assembly.

Priyanka Gandhi in UP

Why has it come to such a pass? First, the minority voters have completely deserted the  Congress, as they feel that it is the Samajwadi Party that can challenge the BJP, and any vote to the Congress will only end up hurting SP’s ability to defeat the ruling party. That many Congress leaders have crossed over to other parties despite getting tickets for the Assembly polls, shows the desperation among its minority leaders. Congress MLA from Saharanpur Masood Akhtar joined the SP and so did Imran Masood. Similarly, Haider Ali Khan, scion of the Nawab of Rampur ditched the Congress despite getting the party ticket. He is now the candidate of BJP ally Apna Dal and will fight against SP’s Abdullah Azam, who is the son of Azam Khan, SP’s most powerful Muslim leader. 

Leaders of other communities too have been leaving the Congress in droves. RPN Singh’s move to the BJP was most talked about, but many other leaders, including 3 sitting MLAs Rakesh Singh, Aditi Singh and Naresh Saini, have joined the ruling party. The party’s candidate from Bareilly Cantt Supriya Aron crossed over to the SP after getting the party’s ticket. In an added embarrassment, the face of Priyanka’s ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign, Priyanka Maurya too joined the BJP.

Priyanka Gandhi is trying hard

In fact, Congress has been left with no prominent UP face to give strength to the campaign. Leaders like Sachin Pilot from Rajasthan and Chattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel have been called in to help with campaigning but in absence of local faces and ban on large rallies, these leaders are unable to have any impact. 

In the absence of prominent local faces, voters see the party as weak and without an ability to win elections. So, even as the Congress decision to give tickets to grassroots level women activists like the mother of Hathras rape victim, Asha worker Poonam Pandey and social activist Sadaf Jafar, is being talked about in the media, at the ground level, it has become a struggle for such candidates to win the confidence of voters. 

So, it is clear that Priyanka Gandhi’s efforts will not bear fruits for the party in the upcoming Assembly polls due to lack of political organisation and lack of voter confidence. But if the party continues to focus on youth and women voters, and if it is able to attract talented young leaders, over the next few years, her efforts can produce good results for the Congress in subsequent elections.

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About The Author :

P Sweta is a senior journalist based out of Delhi, India. Opinion Expressed here is her personal views, She has been covering elections in India since last more than 15 years.

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