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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Why Priyanka Gandhi didn’t campaign in Maharashtra, Haryana elections

Priyanka Gandhi had campaigned extensively in the national elections, addressing rallies in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Assam, Haryana and Kerala.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2019 15:44 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves to supporters  after addressing an election  rally in Amethi.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves to supporters after addressing an election rally in Amethi. (Reuters file photo)

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not campaign for the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections because she wanted to focus on strengthening the party in Uttar Pradesh, a leader familiar with the development said.

“She [Priyanka Gandhi] is keen on rebuilding and reviving the Congress in Uttar Pradesh,” said the leader, who asked not to be named.

The Congress has been relegated to the margins in the country’s most populous and politically important state after being ousted from power in 1989. It has, over the years, ceded space to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, then Congress president Rahul Gandhi lost from his family bastion of Amethi to Smriti Irani of the BJP by over 50,000 votes. The Congress managed to win only one seat in UP: Rae Bareli, the constituency of current Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Priyanka Gandhi campaigned extensively in the 2019 general elections, addressing rallies in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Assam, Haryana and Kerala. She had taken a formal plunge into active politics on January 23, when she was appointed the party’s general secretary and given the charge of eastern UP.

Citing her social media engagements, the Congress leader quoted above said Priyanka Gandhi is keen on reviving the party in UP and wants to stay focused on her functions.

Not only Priyanka Gandhi, her mother Sonia Gandhi too stayed away from campaigning in the assembly elections. Rahul Gandhi, though, addressed six rallies in Maharashtra and two in Haryana.

Sonia Gandhi, who turns 73 this December, was scheduled to address a public rally last Friday in Haryana’s Mahendragarh. It was supposed to be her first rally after taking over the reins of the Congress in August, following her son Rahul Gandhi’s resignation after the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls. But she did not attend the rally, and it was Rahul Gandhi who addressed the meet instead.

Sonia Gandhi did not campaign in Maharashtra either. Voting for the two state polls was held on October 21, and the results will be declared on October 24.

BJP spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said the Congress leaders were cancelling rallies on “frivolous” grounds. “The silence of the family is deafening, especially in the midst of crucial assembly elections. We have seen them skipping, cancelling rallies on frivolous grounds. They have read the writing on the wall. New India has its own aspirational narrative, where dynasty has no place,” he added.

Sonia Gandhi has, in the recent years, curtailed her public functions and had last addressed a rally on June 12 in Rae Bareli to thank voters for re-electing her. Prior to that, she spoke at a public meeting in Rae Bareli on May 2 while campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls.

Also the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), she last campaigned for a state elections in Telangana on November 23, 2018.

On August 2, 2016, she was forced to call off a roadshow in Varanasi, organised to launch the Congress campaign for the UP assembly elections, midway due to ill health and a shoulder injury.

She also stayed away from canvassing in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur (February-March 2017), Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (December 2017), and Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland (February 2018).

She was back on the campaign trail in Karnataka ahead of last year’s assembly polls in the state, addressing a rally at Bijapur on May 8.

Haryana-based political analyst professor Rajendra Sharma said the Congress wants to keep Priyanka for the final push. “She is their last weapon and the Congress perhaps does not want to expose her when the going is tough. They want to keep her for the final push or what we call slog overs before the next Lok Sabha elections,” he said.