Congress leaders, who are perceived to be close to Priyanka Gandhi, said she stays at close relative and former Union minister Sheila Kaul’s residence in Lucknow, whenever she visits UP.(Photo by Sanjeev Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Congress leaders, who are perceived to be close to Priyanka Gandhi, said she stays at close relative and former Union minister Sheila Kaul’s residence in Lucknow, whenever she visits UP.(Photo by Sanjeev Kumar/Hindustan Times)

UP Congress leaders want Priyanka Gandhi to shift base to Lucknow

The plea was made two days after the Centre asked Priyanka Gandhi to vacate her government accommodation in Delhi within a month.
By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 03, 2020 05:52 PM IST

Congress leaders from Uttar Pradesh (UP) on Friday urged party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra to shift base from the national capital to Lucknow in a bid to strengthen the organisation ahead of the assembly polls, due in another two years.

The plea was made two days after the Centre asked Priyanka Gandhi to vacate her government accommodation in Delhi within a month.

Pradeep Mathur, former Congress legislative party (CLP) leader in UP, said her presence in the state would not only help strengthen the party, but would also unnerve the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Our rivals are already afraid of her. She has rattled them. You can see that from the reactions of BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and also Mayawatiji. They are all suffering from Priyanka Gandhi phobia,” Mathur added.

UP, the key battleground state that sends the maximum number of lawmakers to Lok Sabha at 80, is also caught between an ongoing political slugfest between Priyanka Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati.

Last week, Priyanka Gandhi called Mayawati an “undeclared BJP spokesperson”.

Earlier, the BSP had hit back at her over her offer to ferry stranded migrant workers by buses to their native places across UP as nothing but a“political ploy”.

“If Priyankaji comes to live in Lucknow, it’ll boost our party workers’morale and strengthen our organisation base,” said Gaurav Kapoor, a party leader from UP.

“She has been working tirelessly for the uplift of marginalized sections in UP: whether her visit to Umbha village to arranging buses to ferry stranded migrant workers back to their native places. Personally, for young leaders like me, this will come as a big shot in the arm, as we get emboldened to challenge the ruling BJP in the run-up to the 2022 assembly elections,” he added.

Congress leaders, who are perceived to be close to Priyanka Gandhi, said she stays at close relative and former Union minister Sheila Kaul’s residence in Lucknow, whenever she visits UP.

The house at Gokhale Marg in Lucknow was “refurbished” last October to enable her to stay there for a longer duration, said a leader familiar with the development.

“She doesn’t need to look for a house in Lucknow. However, she needs to take a call whether she wants to shift her base to Lucknow permanently,” he added.

UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu also remained non-committal about her Lucknow plans.

“It would be too soon to say if she would stay in Lucknow permanently,” he told media persons.

UP Congress leaders have been urging Priyanka Gandhi to spend more time in the state for better management of organisational matters after she took charge as the party general secretary in January 2019.

They have been pressing her, citing her easy accessibility helped in galvanising the party workers.

Her aides, however, categorically said that she would stay on in Delhi because her family is based here.

“She is looking after eastern UP from Lucknow, and the state’s western part can be managed from Delhi,” an aide said.

Besides, she still has around a month to look for a house in Delhi since the eviction notice was served on her on Wednesday, the aide added.

Congress functionaries also said they were expecting such a move from the government after the withdrawal of the Special Protection Group (SPG) cover to her and other members of the Gandhi family last year.

“This didn’t come as a surprise to us,” said a central leader.

Earlier in March and ahead of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country, Congress leaders from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh had proposed to send Priyanka Gandhi to the Rajya Sabha from their respective states, but she had declined the offer.

Then, she had insisted on strengthening the party organisation in UP, added the central leader quoted above.

The Congress is struggling to make headway in UP after its decimation in 2017 assembly polls and followed by a rout in the parliamentary elections last year.

The Congress had always dominated UP politics till the BJP emerged as a potent force over the twin issues of Mandal Commission and Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in the late 1980s.

The party has been relegated to the margins over the past three decades. It even lost its traditional bastion Amethi in last parliamentary elections, as contender BJP’s Smriti Irani vanquished former party president Rahul Gandhi.

Priyanka Gandhi, considered as a party’s trump card in UP, has her work cut out, as she seeks to galvanise the party workers and also win back the support of the communities that have shifted their loyalties to other parties amid the Congress’s dwindling fortunes through the years.

Lok Sabha member Karti Chidambaram has demanded that Priyanka Gandhi be declared the party’s CM candidate for UP for the 2022 polls and suggested that she should be primarily based in Lucknow to lead from the front.

“The path for a national revival of the Congress is via UP. The clearest statement of intent will be to declare Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra as the CM candidate of the Congress in UP. PGV must be primarily based in Lucknow and lead the charge,” he has tweeted.

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