In a surprise move, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is on a two-day tour of Amethi, his parliamentary constiutency in Uttar Pradesh, appointed his sister Priyanka Vadra as party general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh on January 23. Priyanka, who is currently in New York, will take charge on February 1.
The announcement came in a press statement at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Talking to reporters in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi, said he had not appointed Priyanka “only for two months” but as a regular party functionary who will take the party's ideology forward in U.P. and the country at large. The “two month” reference obviously is a reply to those BJP leaders who have dubbed Priyanka's visibility during Lok Sabha elections as “ barsaati mendak ”(seasonal frog).
Priyanka has been politically active for the last many years but behind the scenes. In fact, she manages the parliamentary constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi respectively. Since 2004 she has supervised the campaigning in these two constituencies singlehandedly. Even in Delhi, she makes it a point to keep in touch with people from the two constituencies.
Her active role in the party has been a matter of speculation for years. Political observers have often described her as the “ brahmastra ” (mythical ultimate weapon) of the Congress.
Her role in eastern Uttar Pradesh pitches her in direct contest with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. While Modi represents Varanasi Lok Sabha seat from eastern U.P., Adityanath hails from Gorakhpur, also in eastern U.P., a seat he lost to the Samajwadi Party in the byelection held after he gave up the seat on becoming Chief Minister and getting elected to the State Legislative Council.
Priyanka’s appointment reflects the realisation by the Congress that it needs to reinvent itself in the politically crucial State, which sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. The fact, however, remains that although Priyanka would be overseeing eastern U.P. she has a national profile and her presence will enthuse Congress workers across the country. Though it has not been announced yet whether she will also contest the Lok Sabha election, the indication is that she will. Rahul Gandhi said recently that the Congress would play from the “front foot now”.
The fact that the announcement caused a lot of concern in the BJP was obvious when party spokesman Sambit Patra said this was proof that Rahul Gandhi had failed. “The Congress has basically publicly announced that Rahul Gandhi has failed and needs crutches from within the family,” he said.