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Priyanka Gandhi effect? 20% rise in membership of Shakti network

By choosing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi sent a clear signal of his intent to revive the party in the state, where the Congress has been in the political wilderness for three decades.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 30, 2019 09:34 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Priyanka Gandhi,Priyanka Gandhi Vadra,Shakti network
Congress General Secretary and Uttar Pradesh - East incharge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra interacts with villagers on her three-day UP campaign ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Ayodhya, Friday, March 29, 2019. (PTI file photo)

In just two months, an internal network of Congress workers has posted more than 20% increase in its membership, a fact party leaders attribute to just one factor: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s formal entry into active politics on January 23, when she was anointed the party’s general secretary and eastern Uttar Pradesh incharge.

Her appointment, announced by her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, sent a clear signal of the Congress’s intent to revive the party in the state, where the party has been in the political wilderness for three decades.

Since Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment, the membership of the Congress’s Shakti network, which links grassroots workers to the party leadership, has crossed 6.6 million up from 5.4 million earlier, according to the party’s data. The 22% increase in enrolment of volunteers in just two months marks the fastest pace of growth in the membership of Shakti, which became operational last June.

What is possibly more important for the Congress is that after Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into the Congress leadership hierarchy, women’s share of the Shakti membership has jumped to 40%, a steep rise from the 22% share they had earlier. This sharp increase among women in enrolment underlines her ability to attract more women to become Congress volunteers. Women constitute 50% of the approximately 900 million voters.

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“It is a good thing if Priyanaka Gandhi’s participation has led to more women showing keen interest in political works. No doubt, there is a need for more women in Indian politics. But Priyanka’s real test will be her ability to get voters in the Lok Sabha polls,” said activist and former Bihar minister Parveen Amanullah.

Congress’s data analytics department head Praveen Chakravarthy has developed the Shakti network, giving millions of faceless supporters of the grand old party a voice in the party’s decision-making. Most of the party decisions are now taken only after snap polls are conducted on the Shakti app.

And like other Congress leaders, Priyanka Gandhi, too, has started tapping the wide network of the Shakti app to conduct the party’s election campaign. Before she travelled to Lucknow for her first public rally in February after assuming charge, she sent a voice message to Chakravarthy to be played to workers.

“It was a short and simple message. It just said that ‘I am Priyanka Gandhi and I seek your participation in a new kind of politics. The politics which we envisage will hear voices of all people especially the poor, the downtrodden and women.’ We immediately circulated it to all through Shakti,” he said.

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First Published: Mar 30, 2019 06:53 IST