Brand value diminished? Priyanka Gandhi’s charm fails to work in UP

A senior leader said if she had started a year and a half back, things would have been a little different. She should keep focusing on UP and continue her people connect which will help in 2024.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (File Photo)
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: With just two seats, the Congress fell to its lowest ever tally in Uttar Pradesh under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Though her high voltage campaign and decision to give 40 per cent tickets to women failed to make a mark, party leaders say she should continue focusing on the state and stay put to revive the party.

Priyanka addressed over 160 rallies and over 40 road shows but she started focusing towards the end of elections. A senior leader said if she had started a year and a half back, things would have been a little different. She should keep focusing on UP and continue her people connect which will help in 2024, noted a Rajya Sabha MP.

“It is very disheartening that we have come to 2 per cent vote share in a state we ruled for years but Priyanka should continue work and focus on the state. She should make Lucknow as her base and stay rather than making visits ahead of elections. She didn’t visit the state for over a year and half and landed for launch of campaign just six months before the election,” said a senior UP Congress leader.

There was no denial that both party and Priyanka knew the task at hand. Many leaders questioned her choice of her core team which made many seniors feel insulted.

Besides several veterans, Priyanka’s close aide Lalithesh Tripathi, RPN Singh, Jitender Prasada and Anu Tandon left the party in the run up to the polls.

Priyanka Gandhi addressed 209 rallies and roadshows, the maximum by any top leader during the UP election campaign, followed closely by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who spoke at 203 poll events.

Though Priyanka Gandhi was focussed on Uttar Pradesh, she also campaigned for the polls in Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab.

Rahul Gandhi also held several rallies in Punjab, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

While acknowledging that Priyanka Gandhi did hard work in UP and raised important issues of women, political analysts said it failed to click with the electorate.

Her campaign events drew large crowds, but she failed to win their votes.

With yet another drubbing in the polls, it is also expected that knives will soon be out in the Congress with some observers claiming that the Gandhi siblings are fast-losing credibility even within the party.

The BJP was headed for a second straight win in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh and dominated the trends chart in Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, while the Aam Aadmi Party readied for a landslide win in Punjab.

The Congress was headed for a big defeat in all the five states.

Rasheed Kidwai, the author of '24, Akbar Road' and 'Sonia: A Biography', termed the Congress defeat "a huge setback" and opined that nothing seems to be working for the Gandhi family siblings.

"They had made a huge gamble in Punjab projecting a Dalit chief minister but it has boomeranged very badly on them. Similarly, Priyanka Gandhi's foray into Uttar Pradesh has come to a naught. So it raises a question mark. They are losing credibility in the Congress 'parivaar'," Kidwai told PTI.

He said that electoral success and defeat may be cyclic, but as of now nothing seems to be working for the Congress.

It is not just about the Group of 23 leaders, who wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi seeking an organisational overhaul, but the Congress workers at large are "losing faith in them", he claimed.

"I think the loyalists will try to rally around the Gandhi family but it is time for them to smell coffee and try to democratise the leadership. While they can continue to lead the party, but they can have a proper election for CWC. It is no longer a matter between them and the G23. The average Congress person is losing patience and respect (for them)," said Kidwai, a chronicler of the Congress party's political journey.

Echoing similar views, Sanjay K Pandey, a Jawaharlal Nehru University professor and a political commentator, said the worst situation is that of the Congress and the results had "diminished the brand value" of the Gandhi siblings.

"It would embolden the G-23 and other opponents within the party," Pandey told PTI.

Manindra Nath Thakur, an associate professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for Political Studies, said the results had made matters worse for the Congress which was "already in trouble" and its senior leaders were awaiting to comment on this.

"In UP, she (Priyanka Gandhi) did the hard work, no doubt about it. She has been able to do solid ground work and raised important issues such as women's issues. There is nothing called magic in politics, everything is a possibility, it is like the process of crystallisation. There is a moment when things crystalise. They (the Gandhi family) are not able to achieve that moment," Thakur told PTI.

"They (the Gandhi family) have to realise that politics is not an individual game but a collective game. Orchestrating forces within the party is missing," he said.

Thakur said that with every defeat in polls the dissident voices within the party will grow louder.

The party structure is such that the people who are raising their voice are being marginalised, he claimed.

Thakur asserted that the Congress must develop regional satraps and said the party should have encouraged leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada and Sachin Pilot and projected them as a new leadership but failed to do so.

"If they think only these two people can mobilise people, I don't think that they can do that. Two people cannot connect with every force on the ground. Congress of earlier days had satraps, they were active and they were loyal to the leadership. Even in BJP you see satraps," Thakur said, citing the example of Yogi Adityanath and Vasudhara Raje.

As votes were counted for elections to five states held over February and March, India's ruling party could end the day with a four-one score.

The BJP was also leading in Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, according to trends on the Election Commission website.

(With PTI Inputs)

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