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TOI EDIT-Priyanka’s Launch

January 24, 2019 06:17 AM


Priyanka’s Launch
To revive UP Congress, she must dent BJP in 2019 and recapture SP-BSP votes too
A much anticipated political debut has finally happened with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking the plunge. By its risk-averse standards the Gandhi family may finally be pulling out all the stops, by thrusting the charismatic Gandhi sibling into the thick of battle in eastern UP where she will lock horns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath in Gorakhpur. Contrast this to Rahul Gandhi’s long apprenticeship and Sonia Gandhi’s hesitation to take the PM post in 2004.

SP-BSP brushing aside Congress claims while forming their coalition in UP must have come as a rude shock to Congress, alerting it to how poorly regarded its prospects generally are in India’s bellwether state. In attempting to beard the two BJP lions in their den with its long-reserved “brahmastra”, Congress may have woken up to the fact that upcoming Lok Sabha elections will be a do-or-die battle for it. This is the second big surprise from the Gandhi stable. The first was an improved Rahul taking on Modi and leading Congress to wins in three Hindi heartland states. Congress must be hoping Priyanka’s presence will boost cadre morale as UP had seemed a lost cause after the SP-BSP cold shoulder. Grooming Priyanka to take over from Sonia, who can retire, may also have been a motivating factor.

Of course, the argument that Congress must move beyond dynasty has been thrown to the winds. The Gandhi family is seen as the sole entity that can hold Congress together. However, the UP voter has changed from Priyanka’s grandmother Indira Gandhi’s heydays. Even her striking resemblance to Indira may not enthuse Congress’s old base comprising Dalits, Brahmins, Muslims and some Thakurs. The party organisation too has withered away and rebuilding it would be Priyanka’s first challenge

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