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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Will Priyanka Gandhi’s gamble on Ajay Kumar Lallu in UP pay dividends?

Ajay Kumar Lallu is a first-time politician in the family. Lallu’s father is a farmer who sent him to Delhi after several cases were lodged against.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2019 23:35 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
All the Congress’s formulas to revive the party since the early 1990s, including electoral tie-ups, failed in the politically complex Uttar Pradesh.
All the Congress’s formulas to revive the party since the early 1990s, including electoral tie-ups, failed in the politically complex Uttar Pradesh.(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT PHOTO)
         

In the 1990s, veteran leader, Govindacharya, had advised the BJP high command to change the party’s ‘chola, charitra and chaal’ (face, character and pace) to arrest the decline in the party.

When it came to Uttar Pradesh, the state in-charge of party affairs, Priyanka Gandhi, decided to give it a try. All the Congress’s formulas to revive the party since the early 1990s, including electoral tie-ups, failed in the politically complex state, where the Congress and the Gandhis stood synonymous. Gradually, the Gandhis started losing their pan-UP appeal and the party its vote share.

Ignoring the rights of many senior claimants, Priyanka chose a young, rustic leader Ajay Kumar Lallu from east UP. In somewhat a style adopted by the RSS almost a decade back, the veterans became advisers.

Obviously, eyebrows were raised

Lallu, who? Which caste? Which political family? And why, when there was a plethora of leaders to choose from, including Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh, Pramod Tiwari, PL Punia?

But even those who failed to revive the party were also known figures: Raj Babbar came from Bollywood; Rita Bahuguna Joshi (now in the BJP) and Salman Khurshid were from reputable political families; and then both Jagdambika Pal, the 24-hour chief minister, and Nirmal Khatri from the hot seat of Faizabad were Congress veterans who had fought many an electoral battles before they took charge of the UPCC.

Comparatively, Ajay Kumar Lallu is a first-time politician in the family. Lallu’s father is a farmer who sent him to Delhi after several cases were lodged against . In the words of Lallu himself, “I was born in abject poverty, grew up seeing my father being abused and heckled by money lenders. Thus ‘aisa koi kaam nahin jo kiya nahin -- khad becha, cinema ticket becha’ (There is no such work that I did not do. I sold fertilizers and cinema tickets) and became a student leader who caught the attention of Rahul Gandhi and became MLA.” Lallu was addressing party workers in Lucknow after assuming his new responsibilities.

Can a two-term MLA pay dividends in the long run? He is a firebrand who once locked horns with chief minister Yogi Adityanath on the floor of the state assembly.

Yogi had once mocked him as “Lallu” (translate) on the floor of the UP assembly. He had then replied, “The chief minister comes from eastern UP and knows mothers fondly call their sons Lallu. My baba (grandfather) had given me this pukaru (nickname).” Incidentally, Lallu comes from Kushi Nagar, a district adjacent to the chief minister’s Gorakhpur. His admirers talk about his devotion to people.

He has his task cut out. His first job is to placate and win over party leaders who are resentful of his appointment as UPCC president. It will not be easy. Nonetheless, his success will lay the foundation of a complete makeover of the AICC. Priyanka Gandhi will be hoping that her experiment succeeds in UP.