There is spring in the step of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh despite the party being in dire straits in the state. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has dominated headlines since taking a lead in the Lakhimpur incident and has surprised many with her announcement to float as many as 40% women candidates in the upcoming elections in the state.
But will people buy this unless the Captain of the Congress ship and the party’s woman face, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, chooses to take the electoral plunge? Her partymen are projecting her as the chief ministerial face, with senior leaders like Salman Khurshid and PL Punia terming her the party’s face in Uttar Pradesh. The party’s latest posters have hers as the biggest picture with the slogan “the only alternative”. So will Priyanka take the battle to the enemy camp by contesting against CM Yogi Adityanath if he contests from Ayodhya? The latter is the buzz in the BJP.
The answer to this question may well lie in the anti-climax in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when Priyanka first sparked speculation by asking whether she should contest from Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and later added to the same by saying she was ready if her party president (Rahul Gandhi) asked her to. Ultimately, she did not contest with the party not risking Priyanka’s electoral debut against Modi. It was then said by some that Priyanka may take over the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat from her mother Sonia Gandhi in 2024 as electoral debut.
But the clamour in the party cadre for her to set an example and contest a seat in the assembly election is now expected to grow, given the mileage Priyanka has lately got and her latest announcement of floating 40% women candidates. “What would be more fitting than Priyanka leading the charge and contesting a high-profile seat? That will electrify the cadre and show that the Congress is in the contest in all seriousness,” a senior party leader in UP said. A former Congress leader from UP, however, said Gandhis won’t contest for anything less than an a Lok Sabha seat.
Opposition Ridicules 40% Women Tickets Move
The political sense in the state is that such announcements of 40% tickets to women candidates may not be enough to woo women voters in UP which has backed BJP in three consecutive elections since 2014 on the plank of law and order, women-centric schemes such as Ujjawala, Swachh Bharat and free foodgrains. Even the Samajwadi Party, which was voted out in 2017 primarily on the issue of poor law and order, has been on an overdrive wooing the women voters through a series of programmes in the state such as ‘Samajwadi Mahila Sammelans’ by its women leaders.
The Samajwadi Party and BJP both dared the Congress to make a similar announcement of 40% tickets for women candidates in the Punjab and Uttarakhand elections, which are to be held alongside Uttar Pradesh and where Congress stands a chance to actually win. “Making announcements is one thing…what matters more in candidate selection is winnability and not gender. Congress has no chance to win in UP so it can give tickets to anyone. Congress is nowhere on the ground in the state. Does it even have candidates for 403 seats?” a Samajwadi Party leader told News18.
Meanwhile, BJP attacked Priyanka on the dynasty saying the two women leaders sitting alongside her at the press conference in Lucknow were both daughters of senior Congress leaders. BJP UP leader Rita Bahaguna Joshi said she had left the Congress because she was humiliated.