Will she, won’t she? The suspense over Priyanka Vadra’s role in next year’s crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly elections continues with Congress spokespersons maintaining no decision has yet been taken.
A section of Congress leaders wants Priyanka to campaign extensively across the politically important state — beyond the Gandhi pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli that she usually sticks to.
But, party sources said, if and when she decides to take the plunge, her role won’t be confined to UP alone. “It’s true, the high command hasn’t made up its mind on Priyanka’s role,” said a party strategist. “But if she campaigns beyond Amethi and Rae Bareli, it will be in many other states, including Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Punjab.”
However, party strategists said, even if she decides to campaign beyond the constituencies of her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi, she is unlikely to assume a formal role in the party.
The assessment in the Congress is that Priyanka’s popular appeal might give it an edge in Punjab, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, where the party has a well-oiled machinery in place.
Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress has marginal presence, is a different ballgame. The party might gain some more seats if Priyanka campaigns extensively, but it will still need a miracle of sorts to go up on an equal footing against contenders like the ruling Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP, according to another Congress strategist.
However, even a marginal gain in UP could turn it into a kingmaker, a role the Congress is eyeing.
“The three of them (Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka) together will make the Congress a formidable force once again,” the strategist said, adding that together, they would be better placed to challenge the BJP’s ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign.
On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad rubbished talk of Priyanka heading the party’s campaign committee in UP. “If she wants to come in during the elections to campaign, that is different,” he said.
Prashant Kishor, in charge of the Congress’ poll strategy in UP and other states, is said to be the biggest advocate of a larger role for Priyanka. The party leadership has given him a patient hearing but “no indication either way”, the sources said.
The speculation over Priyanka comes amid the Congress’s reported plans for a formal role in the UP polls for another one of its heavyweights, Sheila Dikshit. The three-time Delhi chief minister has shown willingness to take up any role the party has in mind for her, saying on Tuesday, “I am a daughter-in-law of UP.”
The idea behind projecting the 78-year-old Dikshit, a former Lok Sabha MP from Kannauj, is to woo the state’s influential Brahmin community, whose loyalty to the BJP is perceived as wavering.