The Congress is on revival mode but most expected trump card of the party miscarried miserably. For many years, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was seen as the trump card in the Indian National Congress’s (INC) pack. So in 2019, when she did decide to enter politics, most people believed that she would provide a much-needed booster that would aid her brother in the elections.
Relying on this belief, INC President Rahul Gandhi deployed her in the most crucial of all states, Uttar Pradesh. She was hailed as a perfect bundling of charm, energy, and strength. At one point, she was even spoken of as a rival to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Varanasi constituency. The recent stern message to party workers by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary and in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, for “letting down the party” in the State has raised eyebrows among political analysts, with one of them quizzical the timing of her outburst. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi represent hope. But in the current scenario, it is clear that the latter is likely to face a couple of defeats before being able to make a mark, not unlike her brother.
In Indian politics, charisma has worked wonders. But on any given day, it is the ground level equations, consolidation of communities matter more. The Congress seems to be lacking on this count. The main risk from Priyanka’s tough-talking was its potential to hurt the morale of party workers at a time when a clutch of by-elections to the Assembly are due. This was a time to energize and console their workers. She should begin by owning up the defeat and assure the workers of a better strategy.
The people of Rae Bareli stood like a rock but certainly, we have evidence that in other large parts of Uttar Pradesh, possibly, things were wanting and in the true spirit of investigation that is being reviewed. With the exception of 2009 when the Congress won 21 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, the party has been on a steady decline in the state over the past eight Lok Sabha elections. And 2019 has seen the worst performance with the party managing to win just Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha seat in Rae Bareli. If Priyanka Gandhi had contested from Phulpur, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s seat, or from Allahabad, where the Nehru family has a family connection, the Congress may have fared better in two, three seats. In Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as a politician was a failure. Further, BSP and SP alliance was not of any help to Congress, as the party’s organisational strength is poor. It has been once again proved that there are now fewer and fewer takers for Congress party with its so-called secular agenda and vague economic agenda. I believe if senior Congressmen think that the Congress party has a future as a centrist (to be precise, left of the centre) political party, they cannot depend on Gandhi family as it no longer attracts voters. More importantly, they should reconsider the Congress party’s so-called secular agenda which depends too much on minority voters for its survival- this I suppose is an important lesson of the 2019 LS election results. Would today’s Congress leadership be able to make a break from the past and grow?
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry into active politics as the general secretary of AICC barely three months before the Lok Sabha elections has failed to woo voters in Uttar Pradesh. It was an uphill task ahead for Priyanka to bring back the party’s lost glory in the state in its triangular battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and newly formed Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP)-led Grand Alliance or Mahagathbandhan. While some called it a masterstroke move, many perceived it as a hurried decision by the Congress. Priyanka did 38 rallies during her campaigning out of which 26 were concentrated in UP. She also campaigned for Congress candidates in MP, Delhi, Jharkhand, and Haryana. In 97 per cent of the constituencies where she campaigned, the Congress faced a defeat. UP has always been a centerpiece of Indian politics as it is the biggest state in terms of its representation in the Lok Sabha with 80 seats out of total 543.
The eastern UP which has 41 Lok Sabha constituencies included various key constituencies like Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seat Varanasi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur along with Rahul’s family’s bastions Amethi and Rae Bareli. The BJP-led NDA government got a massive mandate, winning 353 seats to regain power, while the Congress-led UPA managed to get only 90 seats in the Lok Sabha. In Uttar Pradesh, the performance of the UPA was even more dismal as it managed to win only one seat. It was the biggest blow for Rahul Gandhi who lost election from his family bastion Amethi to the BJP’s Smriti Irani in a see-saw battle by a thin margin of around 44,000 votes. However, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi managed to retain the Congress party’s another bastion Rae Bareli.
The NDA won 59 seats while SP-BSP Mahagathbandhan managed to win 15 seats. The UPA got a vote share of 8 per cent. The Congress had contested 67 seats in UP, while its allies contested four seats in the state. According to the India Today-Axis My Nation exit poll, the UPA failed to woo voters across demographics. While the Muslims and Yadavs favoured the Mahagathbandhan, the BJP-led NDA managed to get Jat votes along with the majority, while Hindu upper caste also voted on bloc for the party. There will be elections again, this time the Congress needs to work hard.
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