Priyanka mounts a spirited challenge to Modi-Yogi duo

Women are at the heart the Congress general secretary’s poll strategy in UP.  She is wooing the women voters at a time when prices of essential commodities, pulses and edible oil are registering a steep rise disturbing household budget and multiplying their sufferings.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra puzzled her political detractors with her gamechanger move to attract more and more women to her fold offering them 40 percent party tickets in upcoming state assembly elections in 2022. Women constitute almost half of the total electorate. When other political parties are busy in forging caste and communal combinations to dethrone ruling BJP, the smart move of Priyanka Gandhi may bring back the traditional support of women voters over which her grandmother Indira Gandhi had good dominance.

Priyanka also announced that if Congress party is voted to power in the state, it will give a smartphone to all the girl students who will pass Intermediate examination and an electronic Scooty to those who succeed in graduation. After consensus with manifesto committee, she declared farm loan waiver, 20 lakh jobs, slashing electric bills to half, free medical facility to everyone up to Rs 10 lakh, financial aid of Rs. 25000 per annum to Covid-hit families, waiver of the electric bill of pandemic period and procurement of wheat and rice at Rs 2,500 per quintal and sugarcane at Rs 400 per quintal.

In a well-planned move, after addressing a big rally at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, Priyanka stormed another big rally on October 31 in the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at Champa Devi Park, Gorakhpur, concluding her 10-day long “Pratigya Yatra” announcing renaissance of Congress cadre with her day and night labour devoted to strengthen her organisation. She shared electoral commitments of the party with the masses. The big success of her rally was attributed to hard work put in by thousands of rejuvenated Congress workers under her leadership and overall supervision.

Thrilled, Priyanka ridiculed those who used to dub her party as “spent force” on account of its poor organisational structure and said, “These overwhelming crowds reflect change in the trends of our acceptability in fast developing ground realities due to enhancement of our organisation building capabilities.” It was second such occasion when she showed extraordinary courage to challenge unquestioned might of Modi and Yogi in their bastion, though she suffered huge humiliation at the hand of UP police many times during Yogi rule.

Priyanka Gandhi’s promises to women community assume political significance as Narendra Modi’s flagship schemes like Ujjawala and toilet to every household in villages rode him to power cutting across party affiliations. His housing and ration card schemes –ownership of the property is named after women and ration too delivered in her name as first holder. Many other employment generation schemes of Modi government empowering women have also played crucial role in enlarging his support base.

Priyanka has tried to woo the women voters at a time when prices of essential commodities, pulses and edible oil are registering a steep rise disturbing household budget to unimaginable limits and multiplying their sufferings. Frequent rise in LPG, petrol and diesel prices are adding salt to their wounds. The flagship scheme of LPG cylinder has turned out to be standstill due to unimaginable hike in its tariffs. Her charismatic one-to-one gesture with the working women labourers in the village fields for grasping grassroots understanding about the difficulties they are experiencing in running their life, has also turned as an eye catcher event in the media. Sharing lunch and jaggery offered by these poor labourers with affection, Priyanka has also told them about the Congress mission slogan “Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon.”

Hitting back over the remarks of Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that “the Congress party was colluding with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” Priyanka said at the ‘Pratigya Rally’ in Gorakhpur, “I would prefer to die rather to have any kind of tie-up with the saffron camp. “Today they say that the Congress has joined hands with the BJP. I want to ask them where were they when people were struggling? In times of crisis, only the Congress fights. And today, from this dais, I am saying that I will die, but will never join hands with the BJP,” she said.

Targeting the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath rule at his home turf, “You take any section of society be it Dalits, weavers or Brahmins, everybody has been exploited. The administration of Yogi Adityanath ji is working completely against the ‘vichaar’ (teachings) of Guru Gorakhnath,” she taunted the BJP leader, who is also the head of the prominent Mutt named after its founder saint Gorakhnath of 11-12 century. Recalling the words of her grandmother, Indira Gandhi, on her death anniversary, she said, “No one is above the country and like my grandmother I will never break the people’s faith in me and fight for them till the last drop of my blood.”

Now after “PratigyaYatra” Priyanka will launch “Pragati Yatra” in various parts of Lucknow this month. UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu said, “The theme of the yatra is to remind people about the common social thread that binds India together that is our shared legacy of diversity with brotherhood and amity above the caste and religion but UP government playing divisive politics.”

The “Padyatra” led to various parts of the state capital aimed at propagating its poll promises with its traditions of social harmony. Priyanka Gandhi would lead the Yatra from Kali temple to Dargah Hazrat Abbas in old city. Political observers noticed that the route map chosen for the Lucknow Padyatra was carefully curated and it relit the secular cord for which the city of nawabs is synonymous to “Ganga Jamuni Tehzib,” composite cultural threads.

While blaming the CM Yogi Adityanath, Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot said, “Instead of resolving people’s problems, his government is cheating them with its divisive politics. Congress had always raised its voice against injustice, harassment of farmers and women and stood as a shield for the honour of daughters.”

Priyanka Gandhi is the only leader in the opposition who is on the grounds when people need her in distress. She had come out to rescue barefoot marching migrant labours from Mumbai-Delhi during the unplanned lockdown inflicted upon them. She arranged 500 buses on the Rajasthan-UP boarder to send them safely to their homes but Yogi government did not allow it to ply. The UP Police also filed FIR against her benevolent gesture.

Later, she was stopped from going to Hatras where a rape victim from weaker section was burnt alive after the crime and who succumbed to her injuries. The UP police had cremated her body in the midnight. Priyanka also raised her voice against atrocities inflicted upon a woman by ruling BJP MLA in Unnao. Recently, she travelled to Lalitpur (Bundelkhand) by train to meet the family of a farmer Bhogilal Pal, 55, of Nayagaon who had died due to cardiac arrest while standing in queue outside a fertilizer shop amid deep shortage of fertilizers. It is the high time when they need fertilizers for their oilseed and pulses crops. Bundelkhand witnessed hundreds of suicide cases of debt-ridden farmers due to successive droughts ruining their economy at large.

Recently when she was detained while on her way to meet farmers’ families at Lakhimpur Kheri, soon after incident of mowing downing of farmers by the son of a union minister came to light and second time, she was going to Agra on getting the news of a custodial death of a Dalit youth in a police station due to excessive use of force. Be it the farmers, Dalits, women, Hindus and others, Priyanka is seen persuading them all to support Congress party amid history of its consecutive debacles due to surge of caste and communal passions polarising electoral battle in the state.

Launching the “Pratigya Yatra” from Barabanki, Priyanka reiterated the promises that her party committed, ‘Hum Vachan Nibhayenge’ (We will fulfil our promises) and initially announced seven pledges but “free treatment up to Rs 10 Lakh” was subsequently added in the list of promises. The yatra will cover over 12,000 kilometres through the length and breadth of the state on three routes. The campaign will also include activities like street plays and night halts in cities and villages. During the yatra, many news conferences, ‘nukkad sabhas,’ temple visits, roadshows, Jan Sabhas, and other events are planned be held. Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are set to take place early next year.

The “Pratigya Yatra” was flagged off by Priyanka on 23rd October for the three routes. The Bundelkhand route which will culminate in Jhansi after covering Lucknow, Unnao, Fatehpur, Chitrakoot, Banda, Hamirpur and Jalaun. Congress leaders PL Punia and Pradeep Jain Aditya are taking the campaign forward on this route. The campaign on Varanasi-Avadh route begun from Varanasi and will end in Rae Bareli covering Mughalsarai (Chandauli), Robertsganj (Sonbhadra), Mirzapur, Prayagraj, Pratapgarh and Amethi. Former MP Pramod Tiwari is leading the yatra on this route.

The campaign on Pashchim route started from Saharanpur and will end at Mathura after traversing through Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareilly, Badaun, Aligarh, Hathras and Agra. Former Union minister Salman Khurshid and senior party leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam is leading the yatra on this route.

Expressing confidence in a tweet, she said: “Everyone saw the crumbled conditions of UP’s health system during Covid-19 times and the present epidemic fever which has spread in many parts of the state, which underlines the government’s apathy. For cheap and effective treatment, the UP Congress, with the consent of the manifesto committee, has decided to provide free government treatment of up to Rs 10 lakh for any disease if the party comes to power. Congress’s pledge – we will fulfil our promise.”

The BJP won 304 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 2017, while the BSP only managed to win 15 seats. The SP-Congress coalition, on the other hand, was unable to win more than 56 constituencies. BJP allies Anupriya Patel led Apna Dal secured 9 seats while Om Prakash Rajbhar led Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party won 4 seats enhancing its tally to 317 seats with overwhelming majority. The momentous victory was termed as “Modi magic” with his powerful mastering in the art of oration swaying away people’s sentiments.

The BJP had not announced a CM candidate in the last elections resulting many dedicated leaders aspiring for the top post including Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Finance Minister Suresh Khanna but Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath was a surprise choice for the position among the party cadres. Even in the upcoming elections it is not clear whether Yogi Adityanath will be the BJP’s face during poll campaign or not––as it may give rise to factionalism among the party cadres.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav publicly accepted his fault for making electoral alliance with the grand old Party, Congress in the last elections and decided to never join  hands with it in future. Soon after the 2019 parliamentary election results, where Congress Party lost its traditional seat of Amethi to Smriti Irani, Priyanka took over the reins of the state Congress in troubled times to rebuild infrastructure at the grassroots that lay ruined as it remained out of power for more than three decades in the state. She faces an uphill task ahead of assembly elections in 2022 to revive the party cadres in Uttar Pradesh where it won mere seven seats in the last elections.