New Delhi: Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addressed her first election rally in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home turf, Gujarat, on Monday. While she focussed her address on attacking the government's "unkept promises", the bigger question now is whether she can be the galvanising force the Congress party is seeking ahead of the national polls.
Priyanka Gandhi, the younger sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is the party's incharge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP). She begun her work in the region last month by holding a series of meetings with hundreds of party leaders. The first list of candidates from Uttar Pradesh was also released last week with names of 11 contestants, including Rahul Gandhi and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
According to senior party leaders from the state, though Priyanka Gandhi has been assigned Uttar Pradesh with an eye on improving the party's prospects in the state in the long run, her immediate challenge will be to enthuse the party cadre and effective ticket distribution. Some are also hopeful that she would play a key role in striking an electoral understanding with the alliance of Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance.
“She has been assessing the situation in Eastern UP and has some ideas in place which will be implemented in the coming days. Her immediate challenge will definitely be ticket distribution in the state and whether she can infuse a sense of belief in party workers about Congress' prospects," a senior Congress leader from Lucknow said requesting anonymity.
Political analysts feel Vadra will have a 'limited impact' since a mammoth task ahead of her would be to convince the cadre and the people of UP to change their opinion about the prospects of the Congress party winning in the state. In the 2014 general elections, Congress faced a rout in the state as it won just two Lok Sabha seats of the Gandhis out of the total 80.
“Overall in this election, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will have a limited impact. She is expected to enthuse party workers but her appointment came very late. If she had already held some rounds of public rallies in Uttar Pradesh till now it could have been a different scenario. Her speech in Gujarat was a mature one and in terms of raising issues, she might have some impact on voters but not to a great extent," Lucknow-based political analyst S.K. Dwivedi said.
“While she began her campaigning from Gujarat it would be interesting to see if she goes out of Uttar Pradesh for campaigning in the general elections. Some of the key challenges ahead of her is selecting the right candidates, preparing a strategy for triangular fight in several seats and giving a fresh lease of life to Congress in the state," he added.