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Priyanka, Manmohan are Congress’ star campaigners, can they swing party’s fortune in UP?

In a desperate bid to revive its fortunes in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party released a list of 40 star campaigners just for the first phase of the elections.

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi |
January 24, 2017 6:18:18 pm
rahul-priyanka-759 Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (File Photo)

In a desperate bid to revive its fortunes in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party released a list of 40 star campaigners just for the first phase of the elections. Notably, popular ‘dynast’ Priyanka Vadra and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also be the star campaigners apart from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. But, will the star-studded list of campaigners reap extra benefits for the party?

Apart from Priyanka and Manmohan Singh, other tall leaders of the party in the list include Ahmed Patel, Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janardan Dwivedi, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Raj Babbar, Sheila Dikshit, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Jyotiraditya Scindia and others. The highlight of the list of campaigners, though, is the names of Priyanka Vadra and Manmohan Singh.

Vadra is adored by the Congress faithful and for years she has been touted as the heir to the Nehru-Gandhi legacy. She has been likened to her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi. Many claim she has the ability to take Indira’s legacy forward. In fact, many leaders in the party have also urged her regularly to join active politics. But, she has kept the campaign catalyst role for the party owing to her appeal among the public.

Having said that, Priyanka has always enjoyed backdoor access to party strategy discussions, key committee meetings and even had a strong influence in selecting election candidates and negotiating alliances with tricky partners. She has performed well in that capacity.  Her charisma and crowd pulling ability are yet to be tested. Also what doesn’t go in her favour is her lack of visibility over a sustained period among the public. She only appears on the stage during elections and disappears for months or years on end.

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Looking at things in retrospect, her campaign didn’t provide any notable gain to the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, it is unlikely that she will have an outstanding impact on the party’s prospects this time. But, her entry into the election campaign will only go to improve the party’s poll prospects given the fact that in many sections she enjoys more popularity than her brother Rahul Gandhi who struggles to gain acceptance among voters.

Manmohan Singh disappeared after the end of his second term as Prime Minister in 2014 and was only seen in a prominent public platform when he gave a speech in parliament after demonetisation. His inclusion in the campaigners’ list is interesting.

During much of his term as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh mostly came under criticism for his apparent passiveness in running his government and leading the party. It will be interesting to see how voters in UP respond to his calls.

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The party will fight elections on 105 seats in the 403 seat elections in alliance with the Samajwadi Party which will fight on 298 seats. So, the aim is not to go for maximum share, not even a major share. The aim this time seems to be redemption.

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First published on: 24-01-2017 at 06:18:18 pm
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