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Will Priyanka score 10/10?

Every election, when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaign across UP, the onus of holding the Rae Bareli and Amethi forts is on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Sunita Aron reports. The Maya challenge

india Updated: Jan 20, 2012 02:27 IST
Sunita Aron
Priyanka-Gandhi-Vadra-arrives-in-Amethi-PTI-Photo
Priyanka-Gandhi-Vadra-arrives-in-Amethi-PTI-Photo

Every election, when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaign across UP, the onus of holding the Rae Bareli and Amethi forts is on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

It has been a tradition, but for political reasons.

Priyanka works tirelessly in the Lok Sabha constituencies of her mother (Rae Bareli) and brother (Amethi), as they focus on the big picture.

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In the general elections, Priyanka's task is easier as Sonia and Rahul are in the fray. In assembly elections, she is the sounding board for people's anger against the sitting MLAs.

The stakes are high because a defeat in any of the 10 assembly segments in these two constituencies causes political embarrassment.

And, Priyanka has not shied away from straight talk in the run-up to the polls. During her recent three-day visit, she exhorted party workers to sink their differences and ensure a Congress win in all 10 seats because "it sends a political message across the country".

Prof NN Ravi of Kamla Nehru College in Rae Bareli says, "People have been angry with party MLAs... However, as they are emotionally attached to the Gandhis, they elect Congress candidates on one appeal from them."

Retired government official Vinod Singh Gaur, however, says, "The legislators say they win elections because of Rahul and Soniaji. But this time people are not willing to be emotionally blackmailed."

Retired bureaucrat Jia Lal Arya, who belongs to Amethi, says Congress hold on assembly constituencies is weakening because of their non-performing MLAs.

Political analysts feel Priyanka will have a tough time to ensure victory from all 10 seats.

A perfect 10 had eluded the party in 2007. Of the five assembly seats in Amethi, Congress had won three - Salon, Jagdishpur and Amethi, losing Tiloi to SP and Gauriganj to BSP.

In the five assembly segments of Rae Bareli, Congress had lost the main Rae Bareli seat, winning Bachranwan, Harchanpur, Sareni and Unchahar in 2007.

What should worry the Congress is till the early 1990s, opposition parties used to face difficulty in hiring offices or even putting their flags in these segments.

Apparently, caste and local issues have started becoming poll planks, unlike the glory run some years back when people only remembered Indira (Gandhi), hand (the party symbol) and then Sonia.

A Congress worker captures the zeitgeist, "Much will depend on the time Priyanka spends in the area. As of now the tempers have cooled. We are campaigning out of our love for the Gandhis and not the local candidates."