Enter Priyanka

What was being speculated for years has ended. Priyanka Gandhi has decided at last to enter politics. Formally. Her brother, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, has appointed her the party’s secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh – the traditional bastion of the Nehru-Gandhis. Will she be able to turn the fortunes of her party? Time alone will tell. Physical similarities apart, she has the charm and grace of her grandmother Indira. And the same bewitching smile. Whether she can garner votes or not, there is no doubt that her decision to lead the election campaign in eastern UP has galvanized thousands of Congress workers who had been demanding for a long time “Priyanka lao, Congress bachao.” Her brother Rahul has already revived the moribund party organization. Even in the case of Uttar Pradesh he has made his intentions clear: the Congress will play on the front foot and go into the battle with full steam ahead. He said the Congress shad no dushmani or enmity with Mayawati and Akhilesh, that he respects them both, but as far as the Congress is concerned, there will be no laxity in campaigning.
There is some speculation that if there is a division of anti-BJP votes between Maywati-Akhilesh duo on the one hand and the Congress on the other, the BJP will be the beneficiary. This is most unlikely to happen. In fact if the Congress starts an aggressive poll campaign, as Rahul says the party will, then the bua-bhatija duo will be compelled to come to some understanding with the Congress – whether formally or informally, whether tacit or open. If this combination challenges the BJP, it will be a formidable challenge. The two sides are already in touch with each other. It is UP which will determine the fate of the BJP: whether it will be able to come back to power again. Chances are that a defeat in UP will mean the BJP losing power.
There is no doubt that Rahul has a long game plan for the Congress in UP. He has hinted that he wants to see a Congress chief minister in UP in 2022. If the Congress under Priyanka can rally a wide spectrum of political opinion in UP behind the party, cutting across caste line, it will bring about a quickening in UP politics and ensure the dominance of the Congress in national politics again. If a coalition government comes to power at the Centre in 2019, it can be held together only by a strong component of a ragtag coalition. And the Congress is the only party that can play that role.

Thursday, 24 January, 2019