After working hard behind the scenes to hammer out an alliance with the Samajwadi Party, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has another major task of selecting ‘winning’ candidates for the Congress in the assembly constituencies of the two family bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi.
The SP had demolished the Congress boroughs and won seven out of 10 assembly seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi in 2012 assembly polls. The Congress had won two while one seat went to an Independent candidate.
Although Priyanka keeps an eye on the process of selection of candidates across the state, she takes personal interest in the selection of candidates for the two constituencies. The Congress has been demanding all the 10 seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi in the alliance. As the Samajwadi Party has announced its candidates for five out of 10 assembly seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi (two in Rae Bareli and three in Amethi) pressure is also building on her to wrest more seats for the party in the family strongholds.
Priyanka is likely to clear party’s candidates on two seats in Rae Bareli and Amethi. She had met ticket aspirants of two constituencies in Delhi about four months ago. “We hope an announcement about candidates will be made after final round of discussions between the two alliance partners soon,” said a senior party leader.
Although senior party leaders say they would abide by the decision of Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi on the selection of candidates and issue of seat sharing, they have own arguments to demand more seats for Congress in the region.
“The Congress has a strong organizational base in Sareni and Unchahar. The two assembly constituencies are winning seats for the Congress. But the SP has fielded its candidates there. We have informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s representative KL Sharma. We are also informing Priyanka ji about the situation. Hope she will do something,” said a Rae Bareli Congress leader.
A similar situation prevails in Amethi where the SP has fielded candidates on three assembly seats.
“Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had agreed to give Amethi and Gauriganj seats to Congress during the talks for an alliance. He appears to have succumbed to pressure from SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav to field his controversial minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati from Amethi. He has fielded a SP candidate on Gauriganj under pressure of his cabinet colleague Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya,” said a leader of Congress in Amethi.
Despite a sharp division in the party over the alliance with the SP, Congress members have generally made no complaints against the party high command’s decision. As the talks for an alliance with the SP progressed in past few weeks the posters carrying pictures of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with those of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his wife and Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav were put up in Allahabad, perhaps reflecting the party’s keenness to firm up the alliance.