After Assam, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is likely to do roadshows in other states as per plans drawn up by the Congress for its star campaigner. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are two regions that figure prominently on the list. She may travel to other areas as well if she doesn’t contest from Varanasi as is being speculated.
When she was first appointed general secretary for eastern UP, it was assumed that Priyanka would not step beyond its boundaries. But the response she has been getting has prompted the party to expand her coverage in a bid to add extra bounce to its campaign.
An experiment of sorts was conducted in the west UP constituencies of Bijnore and Saharanpur where polling was held in the first phase. These are areas that fall under Jyotiraditya Scindia’s domain. He is the general secretary for west UP. But instead of Scindia, Priyanka did a roadshow in both constituencies.
From all accounts, her roadshows were successful. She attracted large crowds and created traffic jams. It’s not clear whether this will translate into votes because it seems many people came out of sheer curiosity to catch a glimpse of the younger Gandhi sibling.
A coup of sorts
The Congress may have pulled off a coup of sorts by getting an important aide of Smriti Irani in Amethi to join the party. The aide is Ravi Dutt Misra at whose house Irani used to stay during her visits to Amethi. Misra’s desertion has gone largely unreported but political circles in this key constituency are buzzing about the development.
Misra was Irani’s introduction point to Amethi when she was first sent to contest against Rahul Gandhi in the 2014 election. He helped her to negotiate her way around the constituency and familiarise herself with its voters. Irani has been making regular trips to Amethi over the past five years in preparation for the big battle against Rahul Gandhi in 2019.
Misra’s house was always open to her and she made it her base. Losing Misra to the Congress is a blow, more in terms of perception than in any strategic sense. After all, if a person considered a key aide crosses over to the rival camp on the eve of election, it dents the image.
However, strategically, Misra’s desertion may not hit Irani’s campaign. She may have outgrown him over the years as she became a regular in Amethi.
Helping the alliance?
Is the Congress secretly helping the SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan in UP? A closer look at the some of the candidates the Congress fielded in the first phase suggests that it may well be doing so.
For instance, in Meerut, the Congress fielded Harendra Agarwal against the BJP’s two-term sitting MP Rajendra Agarwal. The aim, it seems was to try and split the 2.5 lakh votes of the trading community which votes for the BJP.
In Ghaziabad, the Congress nominee was Dolly Sharma, a Brahmin. Here too, the idea seems to be to take away some upper caste votes from the BJP to help the gathbandhan candidate.
Similarly, in Gautam Buddh Nagar, the Congress fielded a Thakur, Arvind Kumar Singh, with the aim of taking away upper caste votes from the BJP’s Mahesh Sharma.
Children on show
Why did Priyanka Gandhi Vadra allow her children, Raihan and Miraya, to ride the vehicle along with the rest of the family during Sonia Gandhi’s roadshow in Rae Bareli?
Priyanka has been overly protective of her kids all these years and never allowed them near a political platform. But this time, she brought them out, let them be photographed by waiting media cameramen and even took selfies with them.
Excited Congress workers feel that Priyanka’s decision to introduce her children to the world of politics and let them be participants in a political rally is a signal that she is here to stay. Politics is her full time job now, they believe. And maybe she is grooming the next generation for the family occupation?
RSS cadres appear to be somewhat restless in these elections. The first indication of this came at a meeting called by RSS general secretary Krishan Gopal in Agra last week. He had summoned state representatives of RSS affiliates like VHP, Bajrang Dal, etc. to discuss strategy and tactics for the 2019 polls.
Much to his surprise, he found a high degree of resentment among the representatives. They grumbled that they had been ignored by the BJP over the past five years in power. Their requests went unheeded by members of the ruling party. Sometimes they had to wait for weeks to meet BJP leaders, they complained.
Krishan Gopal tried to pacify them. He told them to set aside their resentment and campaign wholeheartedly for the BJP to ensure that the Modi government gets a second term.
Although the cadres nodded, there are reports that RSS workers are not as enthusiastic this time as they were in 2014. Five years ago, they put their heart and soul into helping the BJP win with stupendous results.
Interestingly, voter turnout in two important states, UP and Maharashtra, in the first phase was lower than in 2014. Could this be because of listless RSS participation?