Analysis | Priyanka Gandhi faces uphill task to revive Congress in Uttar Pradesh

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The news of the Centre’s eviction notice to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra immediately started speculation about her next plans.

Congress leaders from Uttar Pradesh insisted that Ms. Vadra, as the Congress party’s in-charge of U.P., will be relocating to Lucknow as she plans to revive the party in the Hindi heartland, where it has been a fringe player since 1989 when the party had its last Chief Minister.

After being eclipsed in the politics of ‘Mandal versus Kamandal,’ where the narrative swung between reservation and assertion by Other Backward Class groups and strident Hindutva, the Congress found itself without a dominant political theme.

Throughout the 90s, Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav championed the MY (Muslim Yadav) combination as an effective political tool, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) under Mayawati advanced the Dalit cause and the Bharatiya Janata Party was synonymous with the Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement.

Also read: Criminals have become fearless, says Priyanka Gandhi after U.P. police encounter

And since 1989, each of these parties has ruled U.P., with Congress’ role being limited to providing outside support to Mulayam Singh Yadav government from time to time.

The party couldn’t throw up any State leader of consequences as it had to contend with living in the shadow of the Gandhi family members.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul contested the Lok Sabha elections from U.P.’s Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively and Ms. Vadra looked after Ms. Gandhi’s constituency.

Also read: Analysis | Priyanka Gandhi vs Yogi Adityanath: New battle lines in Uttar Pradesh?

After his entry into politics in 2004, Mr. Gandhi too attempted to revive the Congress in the State and had decided to go it alone in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The move yielded results as the Congress won 21 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Downward slope

But since then it’s has been steady downward slope for the Congress as the BJP resurgence, riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, managed to prevail over caste permutations and combinations.

With the BJP repeating its success in the 2017 Assembly elections, political rivals Samajwadi Party and BSP were forced to come together in a grand alliance before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress got left out of the combine, Mr. Gandhi lost his seat from Amethi and Ms. Vadra’s debut as the general secretary in charge of U.P. East proved to be disastrous.

In the last few months though, Ms. Vadra has shown intent by taking on the Yogi Adityanath government, most notably by arranging 1,000 buses to ferry migrant workers of the State who were walking back home in the first phase of the lockdown.

She also took on BSP chief Mayawati and called her an “unofficial spokesperson of the BJP” when Ms. Mayawati said she stood with the BJP on China.

“As I had said, some Opposition leaders have become the unofficial spokespersons of the BJP and that is beyond my understanding. At this point of time, there is no point to stand with a political party. Every Indian should stand with India, stand with the territorial integrity of India. And be courageous to fight with a government that has allowed our land to be taken away,” Ms. Vadra responded in a tweet.

The tweet clearly provided a distinct break from the past where the Congress was always seen fighting shy of taking on the BSP supremo. As U.P. approaches the 2022 Assembly polls, Ms. Vadra has drawn the battle lines. She is yet to clarify her stance towards the SP, with which the Congress had allied in 2017 but soon fell out.

“Priyanka ji’s decision to shift to Lucknow is a very good decision. Now Yogi ji will know what Opposition really is. The situation of the UP government and the plight of the people is getting worse day by day. Believe it is possible for the Congress to return: Only you have to be stubborn,” tweeted Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha.

Without effective local-level leaders and a compelling narrative, Ms. Vadra’s challenge to revive the Congress is an uphill task but not impossible.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 3:26:43 PM |

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