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Congress Kept Priyanka Out of UP, the Alliance Paid for it Dearly

For the Congress this election in UP stood out not just for the alliance with SP but also for the fact that it was a solo show by Rahul Gandhi.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18pallavighcnnibn

Updated:March 11, 2017, 8:46 PM IST
Congress Kept Priyanka Out of UP, the Alliance Paid for it Dearly
File photo of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

New Delhi: "If only Bhaiyyaji had spent some time with us we would have done better," says a party worker in Raebareli. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is called bhaiyaji and in this name for her is the acknowledgment that Priyanka is the tough one.

It is a refrain that is set to grow louder in the coming days in Raebareli, Amethi and beyond Uttar Pradesh.

For the Congress this election in UP stood out not just for the alliance with SP but also for the fact that it was a solo show by Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi did no campaign while Priyanka went to Raebareli for only two rallies, both accompanied by Rahul. The party made it very clear, however, that Priyanka was the architect of the alliance and that she was micro-managing the polls.

"She is controlling everything and, in fact, has more knowledge about all the constituencies," veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad assured the sceptics.

But for most Congress workers this just wasn't enough, yet every SOS sent to bring Priyanka fell on deaf ears. As elections progressed it was clear that for the SP-Congress alliance things weren’t going according to plans, especially after the fourth phase. But having taken a conscious call not to bring Priyanka in, the only way out for the Congress was to make her presence felt through proxy. Azad was asked to address the media and tell them that Priyanka was the boss and she was very much in the picture.

But why was Priyanka kept away? In the last Assembly polls in UP, Priyanka had addressed about 50 sabhas and had parked herself in Raebareli and Amethi till the last vote was cast.

ALSO READ: Will She? Won't She? Priyanka Gandhi is Still Testing The Waters

Party sources say that at a strategy meeting in October it was suggested by Prashant Kishor that Priyanka should either be the CM face or at least station herself in the state and campaign all over. But as talks of a SP-Congress alliance firmed up, Priyanka decided to opt out. It was decided by her that the focus should be on the UP ke ladke. It was felt that any word from her or speech would take the attention away from Rahul.

Most within the party accept the fact that in comparison to Rahul, it is Priyanka who is more articulate and would grab eyeballs. While it was okay for a Dimple Yadav to be beside Akhilesh, it was not okay for Priyanka to be seen beside her brother.

In the last Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections as well, Priyanka's attack on Modi and Smriti Irani had consistently grabbed headlines for days. This didn't suit the strategists this time round.

The upshot: Congress is staring at its worst ever defeat in Uttar Pradesh – a state home to the Nehru-Gandhis – with its score being limited to 7 seats.

So once again, why was Priyanka kept out of the scene in such a crucial election?

Well, the apprehension was that Priyanka in Amethi and Raebareli would shift the focus away from Akhilesh and Rahul. Priyanka was scheduled to be in Amethi for three days but this was cancelled at the last minute. The reason given was that her son had an eye ailment for which she had to go to Hyderabad. But the real reason also lay in the fact that Priyanka would be a distraction. The sister towers over the brother when they are on the field of action. Ask any party worker or a journalist.

In fact, not just Priyanka, it was a conscious call that Sonia too would stay away. While the decision of Rahul to take over as party president is a long-project waiting to happen, this was Sonia's way of sending the message that henceforth all elections and big events of the party would have Rahul as its face.

And then there is a whimper of a plan to "save" Priyanka for the grand finale in 2019.

By herself, Priyanka has to answer if she accepts the blame for this near-decimation. After all, she was the strategist credited with cobbling together the alliance and was claimed to be "micro-managing" things.

ALSO READ: BJP Arrives in UP With Flying Colours: Ten Key Takeaways

| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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