Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waved to large crowds from the top of a modified truck that wended its way through Lucknow on Monday as she launched her campaign in Uttar Pradesh for the national election, days after her debut in politics. Priyanka Gandhi, dressed in a light kurta-churidar, stood with her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, her fellow UP in-charge, and several Congress leaders and security men on the truck decorated in party colours.
47-year-old Priyanka, no stranger to roadshows with her brother, is campaigning for the first time outside the Gandhi family constituencies of Amethi and Raebareli. For the first time in decades, the party appeared to have generated a buzz in UP, that too in its capital, which has voted for BJP in all elections since 1991.
The Congress’s brand new general secretary waved, folded her hands or flashed a thumbs-up sign as hundreds of workers cheered and shouted slogans on the streets of the crowded city. Among the kaleidoscope of posters and billboards of Priyanka Gandhi, one with her grandmother Indira Gandhi played on her striking resemblance to the former prime minister.
Priyanka is seen by many as the Congress’s big hope in Uttar Pradesh, the state which has the highest number of seats in parliament and is considered the route to power at the centre. Her older brother Rahul Gandhi announced her political debut as Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh two weeks ago. Jyotiraditya Scindia will be in charge of the other half of the state.
“…I hope that we can all come together to bring about a new kind of politics. A kind of politics in which all of you will be stakeholders,” she said in an audio message through the party’s Shakti App on Sunday.
The roadshow will take a 30 km route through some of the most congested areas of the city; the three leaders will garland statues of Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar along the way.
Congress leaders and workers gathered with posters and garlands to welcome Priyanka Gandhi at various points on the route.
Over the next three to four days, Priyanka Gandhi is likely to frequent the party office and chair daily meetings on specific constituencies of the 40-odd Lok Sabha seats that she is in charge of. Congress sources say after Lucknow, she may tour eastern Uttar Pradesh before returning to Delhi.
Priyanka Gandhi is pitched as a big draw with her charisma and voter connect, but her rescue Congress mission remains a daunting task in the state where the party is of little relevance but for a “vote-cutting” impact on other parties.
The party’s last two poll outings, the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections of 2018, were disastrous. Its candidates managed only about 19,000 votes each and a 2% vote share in each constituency.
In 2014, the Congress just managed to retain the Gandhi family constituencies of Amethi and Raebareli – as compared to the 21 it had won five years earlier. The party’s vote share also dropped by almost 50 per cent between 2009 and 2014.
Sources say the party decided on Priyanka Gandhi’s role after much thought.
Eastern UP is home to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi constituency and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s base Gorakhpur. In the past, Allahabad (or Prayagraj, as it is called now) was Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Lok Sabha seat and home to the Nehru family. Neighbouring Phulpur was Jawaharlal Nehru’s Lok Sabha seat.
Image Source: NDTV