Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was on Wednesday appointed the Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh “East”, with the politically significant move ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections marking her formal entry into politics.

Her appointment was cleared by Congress president and brother Rahul Gandhi, who also named Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia the party general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh “West”.

The twin appointments mean the Congress party will contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state under Priyanka and Scindia.

According to a press release issued by All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Ashok Gehlot (who is now the Rajasthan Chief Minister), Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is likely to assume charge in the first week of February.

In a clear departure from the past, this is for the first time that the Congress has divided Uttar Pradesh has into two halves — UP East and UP West — appointing separate general secretaries. Earlier, there would be only one AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh.

Following Wednesday’s appointments, the incumbent general secretary in charge of UP, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been shifted to Haryana in the same capacity.

Wednesday’s move by Rahul Gandhi has clearly been made in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Priyanka Vadra’s appointment was announced on a day the Congress president commenced a two-day visit to his constituency, Amethi. Talking to newspersons, Rahul said in reference to the Lok Sabha polls the Congress party would play on the front foot and not on the back foot.

“It is a party which is fighting for its ideology and whether it is Priyanka ,or Jyotiraditya Scindia, both are very powerful leaders. The party wants to change the politics of Uttar Pradesh though the presence of these two leaders,” Rahul said.

On Priyanka’s entry into politics, Rahul said it would give a surge to the Congress philosophy in Uttar Pradesh. He hoped Priyanka would succeed in giving an able and decisive leadership.

Rahul said he was happy in a personal capacity that his sister would work with him.

On the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party poll alliance, Rahul said he held both Akhilesh and Mayawati in high esteem. He said the two leaders had formed an alliance and the aim of all three parties (Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party ) was to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Congress president said he harboured no enmity towards either Mayawati. or Akhilesh. He said he respected both the leaders.

On the possibility of the SP and BSP joining hands with the Congress, Rahul said the door for talks was always open.

Prior to her appointment as the AICC general secretary, Priyanka’s involvement in politics was limited to campaigning for her mother Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli and for Rahul in Amethi. It was in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections that she appeared for the first time on a Congress poll platform. It was Priyanka’s clarion call to the electorate of Rae Bareli that led to the defeat of her uncle Arun Nehru (contesting on a BJP ticket) at the hands of Gandhi family loyalist Satish Sharma.