After remaining in the shadows for long and dodging the question “Will she, Won’t she?”, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has now made a decisive move – playing the role of a chief negotiator in firming up the seat-sharing agreement with the Samajwadi Party in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. She is credited with making crucial phone calls to Akhilesh Yadav to swing the deal. After a hard bargain, Akhilesh, fresh from his victory in the family battle, has finally agreed to allot 105 seats to the Congress in a deal that the grand old party was desperate to seal. Ironically, the Congress lost power in UP in 1989 at the hands of Mulayam Singh Yadav. It has not recovered the ground since then. The entry of Priyanka as a poll strategist and a campaigner is expected to energise the dispirited cadre. The leadership was quick to acknowledge her role in discussions with the SP, terming it as “highest level”. She is now expected to undertake extensive campaigning across the State.
There has been a clamour within the Congress to rope in Priyanka to revitalise the party that has been losing one State election after the other since its worst Lok Sabha drubbing in 2014. The party circles are also hopeful that she would accept some formal role in the party hierarchy and even contest the 2019 general elections from his mother’s constituency, Rae Bareli. So far, she has been reluctant to make a formal political foray, confining herself to addressing a few election rallies in the family backyard. However, she is now set to take up a more active role to strengthen the hands of her brother Rahul whose tentative and inconsistent approach has failed to inspire the confidence of the cadre. She is seen as a force multiplier in a party that is struggling to stay relevant. Her striking resemblance to Indira Gandhi, her gait, public speaking skills and her connect with masses are often cited as a perfect recipe for party’s revival. Despite Rahul’s extensive campaigning, the Congress performed poorly in the previous UP Assembly polls, winning just 28 seats and in the general elections two years later the party could win just the Gandhi family’s pocket boroughs, Amethi and Rae Bareli. The UP performance is thus vital for Congress’ shot at power in the 2019 general elections. If Priyanka succeeds, the fortunes of the party will not only be revived in UP but its stakes will also be bolstered in Delhi. This explains the party’s desperation for an alliance with the SP, even if it meant being a junior partner.