NEW DELHI: Hitherto shying away from active politics, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was drafted into the Congress ranks in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, in the hope that her mass appeal and personal charm will work wonders with voters in a state where the party had nearly been pushed to the margins over the last few years. However, as the results trickled in on counting day, it was fairly evident that the Congress general secretary failed to find favour with voters. However, it wasn’t for want of effort as Priyanka campaigned extensively across the state, especially in eastern UP where she was the party’s poll in-charge.
Being the party’s star campaigner, she drew a lot of people to her rallies and road shows but it didn’t translate into the party improving its tally in UP, a state which sends 80 MPs to the parliament. Party leaders said that four months is too short a time to expect her to work a miracle in a state where it has been out of power for years.
They agreed that her presence has at least brought some hope for the Congress, as her focus is to strengthen the party at the grassroots level.
Going by vote share and seats won, the party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh has gone down slightly with vote share coming down from 7.5% in 2014 to around 6.25% this time. In a further jolt, Congress president Rahul Gandhi lost the party’s pocketborough — Amethi — to BJP’s Smriti Irani.
Majority of party candidates finished third, behind the BJP and SP-BSP alliance. It is believed that the party not only fared poorly in the state but also spoiled the chances of the Mahagathbandhan to make gains.
During her campaign, Priyanka had claimed that they had put up candidates to help the Mahagathbandhan.
The Congress general secretary held road shows in 37 constituencies, 26 of them in UP. She personally handled the campaign for her mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli and brother Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. She targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues plaguing the people and roundly slammed the NDA’s five-year rule.
During the day, Priyanka visited brother Rahul Gandhi at his Delhi residence. She arrived, arm-in-arm with Rahul, for the press conference at the AICC headquarters She stood calmly as he briefed the media following party’s poor performance. During the entire campaign, there were rumors about her taking an electoral plunge and she fuelled it further by saying she was open to taking on PM Modi at Varanasi if Rahul was game. However, the party later said that it was a well thought out decision by party high command not to field her from Varanasi.