NEW DELHI: Priyanka Gandhi is likely to agree to the proposal that she play Congress’s star campaigner for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, in what party tacticians view as a major boost for Congress’s effort to enhance its presence in the politically crucial state.
Senior party sources indicated that Priyanka, who has so far limited herself to campaigning in Rae Bareli and Amethi Lok Sabha constituencies of party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, has indicated her willingness to expand her role.Her recent visit to Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress general secretary who has been given the charge of UP, is seen as a clear indication that she may have come around to help the party outside the Lok Sabha constituencies of her mother and brother.
Sources also said the proposal, mooted by poll strategist Prashant Kishor who earlier pressed for the younger Gandhi scion to be projected as the party’s CM candidate in UP , was twice discussed in detail among Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. Azad and Kishor were present on both occasions.Sonia and Priyanka discussed with Azad and Kishor again after Rahul left for a vacation on June 20.
Priyanka had another round of discussion with Azad at his residence on June 25, a development which is seen as a clear indication, considering that members of Congress’s first family usually do not visit party functionaries, that she may have come around to do the heavy lifting for the party.The move to get the younger Gandhi sibling, seen as a “natural” for politics, is seen as the party’s last-ditch move to get out of the “also-ran” category it has been consigned to in UP for two decades now. Kishor has strongly argued that the objective could be achieved by declaring Priyanka as the party’s CM choice or, failing that, getting her to campaign across the sprawling state.
Sources said Kishor aims to bring Brahmins back to the party’s fold and feels that a bigger role for Priyanka and appointment of Sheila Dikshit as PCC chief will help the Congress accomplish the goal.The party had until recently frowned upon the suggestion to draft Priyanka, a response which many in the Congress ascribed to the leadership’s suggestion that her full-scale entry into politics could interfere with the project to anoint Rahul as the party’s next boss.
That seems to have clearly changed, with the leadership realising that electoral humiliations in UP and Punjab, coming after defeats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and, more recently , in Assam and Kerala, might knock the party out of contention for the 2019 general elections by denting its claim to be BJP’s principal challenger.