by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
No cake-walk for Priyanka, Scindia in UP
Congress to focus on 25 Lok Sabha seats
New Delhi, Jan. 24
Stiff challenge awaits Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in UP East when she returns from the USA in the first week of February to take charge of her first formal political assignment. She along with her family members, has gone there for a medical check up of a family member three weeks ago, sources say. Her entry in UP East is not a cake-walk but like a greenhorn in the Lion's den. She has been given the charge of those 33 Lok Sabha seats where the Congress had drawn a big Zero in 2014 parliamentary polls. If anyone thought that Priyanka Gandhi has been rewarded by her brother Rahul or it is a bed of roses for her or a big favour, he is sadly mistaken. Its a deft, crafty political move where the Gandhi scion knew he will have to fight it all alone now. After all, party stalwarts Ghulam Nabi Azad included, failed during the past three decades to revive the Congress in UP. Left high and dry by the SP-BSP with only two seats (Amethi & Rae Bareli), Rahul could find only her sister for UP East and and trusted colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia for UP West. The UP West includes regions like Bundelkhand, Ruhelkhand and western part accounting for 30 odd-Lok Sabha seats. It must be borne in mind that when the Congress won 21 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2009, 15 came from Eastern part while six from other regions. The Congress had a vote share of 10% in UP East compared to 4.90% in UP West. It may also be worthwhile to mention that it contested 67 seats out of 80 in 2014.
But surely, 2019 is not 2009 and Priyanka and Scindia would have to fight for every vote in their respective battle ground. Congress insiders say that the Congress would not contest all the 80 seats as was declared by Ghulam Nabi Azad. In fact, one of the reasons for him being shifted to the small state of Haryana was his suo-moto declaration of taking on SP-BSP too. Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that seats and candidates be selected with the objective to defeat the BJP and improve party's own tally. It is also clearly emerging that the Congress will focus on 25 Lok Sabha seats where it will put up strong candidates.
It had a formidable presence in nine Lok Sabha constituencies and strong in another five besides winning two seats in 2014. Therefore, it had a reasonable case of getting 10 Lok Sabha in the bargain with the SP-BSP. Since it couldn't happen, it will now focus on
Barabanki (2nd), Kushinagar (2nd), Mirzapur (3rd), Pratapgarh (3rd) and Varanasi (3rd). Of course, in Varanasi, there is already a talk of putting up a joint Opposition candidate in Shatrughan Sinha. Similarly, the Congress was second in Saharanpur, Ghaziabad (Raj Babbar contested), Lucknow (Rita Bahuguna Joshi joined BJP after being defeated), Kanpur (Sriprakash Jaiswal) and Kheri constituencies. It was pushed to third position in Rampur, Unnao, Farrukhabad (Salman Khurshid). With the young Rahul team taking over UP, the Congress workers will surely be enthused and galvanized. But it is certainly not a red carpet that awaits Priyanka and Scindia. Its a long, hard battle ground.