New Delhi, Jan 23: In a significant development that could boost the fortunes of the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, especially in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday made her foray into active politics with her appointment as AICC General Secretary for East Uttar Pradesh.
In the organisational-shake-up months ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress also announced the appointment of Guna MP and party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia as the Congress General Secretary incharge of western Uttar Pradesh.
'The Congress president has appointed Ms Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as AICC General secretary for Uttar Pradesh East,' an AICC release said. 'She will be taking charge with effect on the first week of February 2019,' it added.
The appointment of Ms Vadra as the General Secretary for the eastern Uttar Pradesh is seen as a move to bolster the prospects of the Congress in the key state, which contributes 80 seats in the 542-member Lok Sabha.
It also pitchforks Priyanka in a major role in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress is looking to unseat the NDA from power. Till now, her role was limited to campaigning in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of her brother Rahul Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi.
It is notable that the Congress has decided to go it alone in the state after the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party forged an alliance in the state, excluding the Congress.
Talking about the appointments of Priyanka and Jyotiraditya, Rahul Gandhi, talking to mediapersons, said ,’’ Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia are powerful leaders. We wanted the young leaders to change Uttar Pradesh politics.’’
Describing Priyanka as a ‘capable’ leader, Rahul said,’’I am very happy that my sister Priyanka will assist me in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, she is very capable.’’
Rahul said that the appointment of Priyanka and Jyotiraditya Scindia was a not a short term measure.
‘’The party has appointed both the leaders on permanent basis in UP. I have sent them to take Congress ideology forward in UP. Standing and fighting for the poor, youth and farmers, is INC’s ideology. Both Priyanka and Jyotiraditya are very capable and dynamic, and will surely take Congress forward in UP,” he said.
When asked if Priyanka will be contesting the LS polls, he said, “It’s up to Priyanka to take a decision.”
Rahul Gandhi claimed that the move would strengthen the INC in UP and bring his party forefront.
“I trust Priyanka and Jyotiraditya Scindia. We will not play on the backfoot," the Congress president told reporters.
Mr Scindia has been made AICC general secretary in-charge for western UP. However, Mr Gandhi hinted that a “bigger” alliance can be formed in UP for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to take on the BJP if SP-BSP agrees to talk to him.
“If SP and BSP want to talk to us for a big alliance in UP, then they are welcome to join us, there is no problem in it," Mr Gandhi said, adding that all, including Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, have similar mission of defeating the BJP. “We still have door opens for larger alliance and anyone who can defeat the BJP is welcome,” Mr Gandhi said.
He said that by appointing both Priyanka and Jyotiraditya, the heavyweights of the INC, the party wants to change the political atmosphere in UP and the mindset of several who think that the grand old party has no plans for the largest state of the country. The Congress leaders hailed the entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in active politics.
Priyanka's husband and businessman Robert Vadra in a Facebook post congratulated wife Ms Vadra saying, 'Congratulations P...always by your side in every phase of your life. Give it your best'.
Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, 'We welcome Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as General Secretary. Her entry into active politics will energise cadres and be a catalyst for the rising fortunes of the Congress Party.'
Delhi Mahila Congress president Sharmistha Mukherjee said, 'Congratulations to Priyanka Gandhi Ji. I thank @RahulGandhi ji for entrusting her with an important position. I am happy as the national president of @MahilaCongress to see a woman General Secretary in AICC.'
Hailing Priyanka's appointment as general secretary, senior leader Rajeev Shukla said, 'Thanks to Rahul Gandhi ji for making Priyanka ji General Secretary of AICC. Welcome Priyanka ji in politics to serve the nation @INCIndia'.
Senior Congress leader Motilal Vora said, 'The responsibility given to Priyanka ji is very important. This will not only have an effect on eastern Uttar Pradesh but also other regions.'
The BJP, however, termed appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as the Congress general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh as yet another episode of 'dynastic politics' and said the new announcement only highlights the failure of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
"Aaj ek rajya abhishek hua hae (This is only part of dynastic politics and passing of the responsibility within a family)," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra told reporters here.
"What has happened is natural....a member of the first family from the Congress has got the new role," he said trying to target the 'dynastic politics' as pursued in the grand old party.
"This party is at best a family-based outfit, there is no doubt about it. One thing has been made clear today that the Congress has publicly admitted the gross failure (nakami) of the Congress president Rahul Gandhi," he said.
Mr Patra said, "...as because Rahul Gandhi has failed, he now needs crutches (baisakhis) from within the family itself".
The BJP spokesman claimed the development in the Congress has come after the principal opposition party has been 'rejected' by the Mahagathbandhan of regional parties - either in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar.
He said the country has embarked on its path for 'New India' and thus today 'New India' is asking the question –
"How long with this continue...after Jawaharlal Nehru, there came Indira Gandhi, then Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi...after Sonia Gandhi - Rahul Gandhi and now Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and after this who else".
"This shows the fundamental difference between the BJP and the Congress. In BJP, the party is the family whereas in Congress party, 'parivar hi party hae (the family is the defacto party)".
"By today's announcement, the Congress party has only made a public announcement of Rahul Gandhi's failure," the BJP spokesman said.
While describing appointment of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the AICC general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East as 'nothing surprising', Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that her persona merited a wider role.
Addressing a press conference to brief mediapersons about the decisions taken by the union cabinet, Mr Prasad said, 'Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been made the Congress General Secretary for the Uttar Pradesh East. Since the Congress party is an extension of the Gandhi family, it is not surprising.
However, why has she been given charge of just East Uttar Pradesh. We feel that her persona merited a wider role for her.' (UNI)