The polls in Uttar Pradesh that are due to be held in 2017 will be a quadrangular fight between the ruling Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj party, BJP and the Congress. As things stand out today, the Congress is a distant last in the race despite having master strategist Prashant Kishor with them. Religion and caste politics play a big role in states like UP and Bihar. The Muslims and Kurmis in UP prefer the Samjawadi Party over the Congress. The Dailts and backward classes lean towards Mayawati and her BSP. The upper castes like Brahmins and Kshatriyas have been the core vote bank of the BJP. The Congress had to offer something new to be in the race and as per media reports, Priyanka Gandhi will become the face of the Congress in UP and would work outside Amethi and Raebareli for the first time. There are unconfirmed reports that she would be projected as the CM face for the UP elections and she is slated to address around 150 rallies.
Priyanka Gandhi: Things that could work in her favor
Priyanka Gandhi belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi family and is the daughter of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi. Although India of 2016 is different and a lot of people are no more swayed by the Gandhi surname, the Gandhis still hold some command, especially in rural UP. Priyanka has been actively involved in campaigning in Amethi and Raebareli, which are the Lok Sabha constituencies of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi respectively. Although Smriti Irani gave a tough fight to Rahul Gandhi in Amethi during the 2014 General Elections, both mother and son did manage to hold on to their seats while the rest of the country completely rejected the Congress.
Shameless sycophancy has continuously been one of the core assets of the Congress party, which keeps the members united and avoids in-fighting. With the anointment of Priyanka Gandhi, it is sure to enthuse the cadre and completely do away with dissidence within the party. Everyone within the party would like to be in the good books of the Gandhi family.
Even if they don’t win themselves, the Congress would like to ensure that BJP doesn’t win the UP elections. For this to happen, Congress would need to form an alliance with any of the other major parties. Although the Congress party has sent feelers to the BSP to have an alliance, Mayawati has so far been cold to this proposal. With Priyanka Gandhi at the helm, there are higher chances that Mayawati would be persuaded to have a Mahagatbandhan in UP along with the JD(U) and the Peace Party. If this does come true, Congress may well bargain close to a 100 seats. BJP will then have to think out of the box and come up with a renewed strategy.
Priyanka Gandhi: Things that could go against her
Priyanka Gandhi is the wife of controversial business mogul Robert Vadra. Vadra has been involved in various controversies and scams. He has been accused of taking an interest-free loan of 65 crores and heavy bargains on land from DLF Limited in exchange for political favors. The Justice Dhingra Commission report would be out shortly and this could spell further trouble for the Nehru-Gandhis. The Vadra baggage could well dissuade people from voting for the Congress. Vadra’s name in the airports as a VIP who mustn’t be frisked is still afresh in the minds of most Indians.
The move to elevate Priyanka would certainly send out a message that the Congress acknowledges the fact that Rahul Gandhi is incompetent and the party has given in to the saying ‘Priyanka lao Congress bachao’. There have been voices by the Congress supporters that Rahul Gandhi is a spent force and Priyanka must be brought in to save the Congress from further debacles. This is detrimental to the party if one looks at it in totality.
Congress has nobody outside the dynasty. This point will become louder if Priyanka is indeed projected as the face of the UP Election. Merit and hard work have no meaning in the Congress party and it is all about nepotism.
The Gandhi family has been in control of the Raebareli and Amethi constituencies. There has been hardly any development in these regions however. Rahul has been accused of completely neglecting his constituency and hardly visits Amethi, except during election times. This factor cannot be ignored and is likely to go against the Congress. We did see Smriti Irani’s spirited campaign in Amethi. Her work in the constituency even after the elections could end family’s control over these constituencies.
Given the party’s shrinking fortunes, the Congress would be left with no option. They’ll have to persuade Priyanka Gandhi to be the face of the Congress for the UP Elections. They might even consider her as the CM candidate. This could work out well to lift the sagging spirits of the party cadre and remain united in battle. But the India of today is different from what it used to be earlier. The elevation of Priyanka Gandhi is not likely to have a ripple effect on a large section of the voters. The misdeeds of the sarkari damaad are not likely to be forgotten by the people. For it to survive, the Congress must realize that people are no more awed by the Gandhi surname. It must seriously introspect and look for more deserving leaders outside the dynasty.