New Delhi: When Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a veiled dig about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being a “seasonal Hindu”, some Congress leaders had been secretly satisfied. They noticed it as an acknowledgement by the BJP excessive command of Priyanka’s rising political presence, in accordance with sources.
Rajnath’s feedback got here on 13 June, a day after Priyanka Gandhi had kicked off the Congress’s Madhya Pradesh election marketing campaign, as an alternative of MP stalwarts like Kamal Nath or Digvijaya Singh. At a Jabalpur rally, she introduced 5 ensures of the occasion within the state and through her go to additionally carried out a puja on the banks of the Narmada.
Thus, when the Defence Minister talked about seasonal Hindus “out of the blue remembering the Narmada” throughout his public assembly with farmers in MP’s Rajgarh, the Congress interpreted it as a sign that she was being taken critically.
Ever since Priyanka resigned because the occasion’s Uttar Pradesh common secretary in-charge final October, months after the Congress’s dismal exhibiting within the UP meeting elections, she appears to have been pushed ahead in all poll-bound states as a ‘star campaigner’.
In February, after the occasion’s plenary session in Chhattisgarh’s Naya Raipur, it was Priyanka who had addressed a public rally whereas Sonia and Rahul Gandhi returned to Delhi.
In Karnataka, she was main the cost in opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the marketing campaign for the election that noticed the Congress emerge victorious final month.
Then, proper after her work in Karnataka was achieved, she was in Telangana to kickstart the occasion’s ballot marketing campaign within the state with a rally in Hyderabad. Her subsequent cease was Madhya Pradesh. All three states— Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and MP— shall be voting within the coming winter.
Apart from these states, Congress sources stated she is going to play a serious function within the upcoming Rajasthan polls as effectively. They declare that her campaigns in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh earlier than that had been “efficient” and helped the occasion register much-needed wins.
“Folks had been very affectionate in direction of her. Folks have a variety of love for her,” stated senior Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala.
Chennithala additionally accompanied Priyanka and her brother Rahul Gandhi, to the latter’s constituency Wayanad in April. The go to got here quickly after Rahul’s disqualification from Parliament after he was convicted in a defamation case.
“I used to be there in Wayanad and other people had been mesmerised by her. Every time folks see her, they see Indira Gandhi,” Chennithala stated. “She will certainly be an necessary marketing campaign face of the occasion within the days to return.”
The Congress appears to be deploying a double-barrelled technique relating to the Gandhi siblings, in accordance with political analyst and professor of political science at Delhi College Dr Chandrachur Singh.
Whereas Rahul talks about points like corruption, worth rise, and coverage issues, Priyanka tries to construct a extra emotional join.
“There may be a variety of ‘meri maa’ or ‘mera bhai’ in her speeches. If you happen to see it from a mean middle-class perspective, the over-arching theme appears to be that the siblings had been raised by a widowed mom and that the 2 have nice camaraderie. This builds a variety of join with folks, particularly girls,” stated Singh.
Whereas a women-centric method led by Priyanka in UP didn’t see the occasion gaining electorally, Congress sources say that they’ve come away with priceless classes to interact with voters.
Preventing a ‘technique conflict’?
When ThePrint reported final week that Priyanka Gandhi had quietly tendered her resignation because the Congress’s in-charge for UP final October, it led to a number of questions on her future function within the occasion.
Will she change into the overall secretary accountable for one other state? Will she contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2024? Or will she give attention to campaigning with out an organisational function?
“One function of hers may be very clear, which is that she is going to marketing campaign extensively in election-going states,” stated an AICC functionary who works carefully with Priyanka.
“Her focus has expressly been on successful elections since Uttar Pradesh. She believes that whereas there may be an ideological conflict, there may be additionally a technique conflict at play — and that conflict must be gained as a way to beat the BJP,” the functionary added.
In keeping with a senior Congress chief, Priyanka Gandhi’s “realpolitik” method to elections appeals to many within the occasion, particularly those that are disgruntled along with her brother.
“Individuals who don’t like Rahul Gandhi gravitate in direction of her. She’s additionally the extra accessible of the 2 and isn’t cautious of formidable folks,” he added.
This chief claimed that Priyanka contesting the Lok Sabha elections was a risk and if she did so, it could be a “enhance” to the occasion.
“Lots will depend upon Wayanad,” stated the supply working with Priyanka, when requested about her contesting the polls. The Lok Sabha seat in Kerala has fallen vacant after Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha. Whether or not he’ll contest from Wayanad once more or not will depend upon whether or not he will get judicial redressal.
“It’s unlikely that she shall be contesting from both Amethi or Raebareli (the 2 household bastions of the Gandhis in Uttar Pradesh). If she contests, it will likely be from a state like Karnataka or Chhattisgarh or some such, the place aside from the seat she’s contesting, she will be able to additionally affect ends in the adjoining 5 to 6 seats,” he stated.
In keeping with analyst Singh, Priyanka may be very “deliberate” in her technique to attach with girls throughout campaigns.
“It’s deliberate optics to indicate her as Rahul’s kavach (talisman) in opposition to the BJP,” he added.
Since 1962, when the Election Fee began breaking down voter knowledge in accordance with gender, the Congress occasion all the time cornered a bigger share of ladies’s votes than different events. However this sample was damaged in 2019 when the Modi-led BJP authorities received the best share of ladies’s votes.
Additional, within the 2022 meeting polls to 5 states, extra girls reportedly voted for the BJP than males.
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Headline moments, however no huge wins
As common secretary in-charge for UP, Priyanka fronted the Congress’ marketing campaign within the 2022 state elections along with her “Ladki Hoon, Ladd Sakti Hoon (I’m a girl, I can battle)” pitch.
Within the polls, wherein Congress determined to go solo, 40 per cent of its tickets got to girls. This technique, nevertheless, didn’t assist the occasion win seats. The Congress despatched solely two MLAs to the meeting and as many as 97 per cent of the occasion’s candidates misplaced their deposits.
However within the two months that Priyanka camped within the state, she did handle to generate many headline-grabbing moments.
One notable incident was when she, accompanied by Rahul, visited the household of the Hathras rape sufferer. Then, when a number of farmers had been run over in Lakhimpur Kheri by a convoy of vehicles, together with one allegedly pushed by BJP minister Ajay Mishra’s son, Priyanka made information when the police stopped her from reaching the spot. She was subsequently detained at a visitor home. In a viral video, she was seen sweeping the ground of this constructing.
Equally, when her automotive was concerned in a minor collision in Uttar Pradesh, a video of her personally cleansing the windshield additionally gained media protection.
“She likes constructing a private join. Throughout the CAA-NRC protests, she constructed a relationship with a bit woman from Azamgarh. The woman had began crying when Priyankaji met her through the protests they usually exchanged numbers. Even now they be in contact. Actually, when it’s the woman’s birthday, Priyankaji asks me to make sure that a present and a observe is shipped to her,” stated Shahnawaz Alam, head of Uttar Pradesh Congress’ minority cell, the workforce for which was appointed by Priyanka.
Why did UP experiment fail?
Priyanka’s workforce created a “barrier” between her and different leaders and restricted who she might work together with, in accordance with two ex-Congress leaders from UP who labored along with her earlier than they stop the occasion.
This left many leaders disgruntled and her tenure in UP noticed many huge names within the state like Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh and Lalitesh Tripathi stop the occasion.
“Priyanka used to provide a variety of time to the organisation, however her workforce did many of the political liaising for her. We might be given work however our selections wouldn’t be taken based mostly on our suggestions,” stated one in all these leaders, now a Samajwadi Celebration MLA in UP.
In keeping with the MLA, solely a rarefied circle had any entry to Priyanka, whereas others weren’t given a lot consideration.
“She would solely find yourself assembly a few folks. There are employees even now who’ve instances in opposition to them from rail roko protests and different such issues, however the occasion has achieved nothing to assist them,” he alleged.
One other former Congress chief, now within the BSP, was a bit extra charitable.
“Priyanka and her workforce had been all very hard-working and she or he herself may be very courageous,” he stated, including that she wasn’t afraid of dealing with a lathi-charge or different harsh conditions.
Nonetheless, this chief too stated that entry to Priyanka and Rahul was a problem.
“The one suggestions that I’d given to each Rahul and Priyanka whereas I used to be within the occasion is that they need to develop a mechanism of assembly folks immediately, with out an appointment,” the chief stated. “Now they solely meet folks cleared by their groups.”
Learnings from UP
One of many classes from the UP loss that Priyanka took to Himachal Pradesh first after which to Karnataka was the significance of building direct join with the citizens, in accordance with occasion sources.
“She is charismatic and places in a variety of effort to attach. She even learns the native lingo and peppers it by way of her speeches,” stated a Congress functionary working with Priyanka in Karnataka.
“Even after a day of campaigning, when she comes again to the lodge, she is going to meet folks on the foyer and take footage with them. There may be nonetheless a mystique across the Gandhi household, and such efforts assist the occasion,” added the functionary. “She additionally applies her thoughts to what’s given to her and is versatile whereas working. She does her homework and is ready at most occasions.”
Congress MLA from Himachal Pradesh and head of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Improvement Board, Raghubir Singh Bali, who labored with Priyanka through the state marketing campaign, talked about related traits.
He recounted an incident that passed off throughout his marketing campaign.
“She was to return and marketing campaign in Nagrota Bagwa and the highway to the rally venue was chock-a-block. We had been ready for the rally to begin and had been getting late. I requested her to get off and stroll the remainder of the gap. On the time, her safety personnel, the state in-charge and even the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister suggested her in opposition to it. However she received out of the automotive to stroll the gap amidst the crowds,” stated Bali.
He claimed that whereas Priyanka was strolling to the venue, she noticed an outdated girl whose chappals had come off within the rush.
“Priyanka Gandhi stopped, bowed down, and positioned the chappal on the lady’s ft. It was a spontaneous response. Neither the lady’s chappals falling off or her cease was staged,” he stated.
Bali stated that Priyanka was additionally concerned in monitoring the design and execution of the Himachal marketing campaign.
“Her follow-ups are what set her aside. As soon as she’s assigned work or has floated a scheme or a coverage, she is going to follow-up on what’s occurring to it. She takes selections shortly and sticks to them, but additionally introspects later to see what might have been achieved higher,” he added.
The supply who works carefully with Priyanka, quoted earlier, stated that when it got here to the choice of promising the Outdated Pension Scheme in Himachal Pradesh, Priyanka was current in every assembly.
“She was clear that we must always solely announce schemes which we are able to implement, else it’ll have an antagonistic influence on different states which can be going to polls,” he stated.
Priyanka held 36 rallies in Karnataka— greater than Rahul’s 32 In keeping with her workforce, she has a “strike price” of 72 per cent, a reference to wins registered within the locations the place she campaigned.
Taking up Modi
Whereas Prime Minister Narendra Modi often avoids bringing Priyanka into his line of fireplace, she has been more and more taking him on.
Within the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka election, whereas the BJP closely relied on Modi as its marketing campaign face, the Congress positioned Priyanka Gandhi as its star campaigner.
Nonetheless, the method she took within the two elections differed.
“In Himachal, the suggestions that she acquired was to stay to native points and speak about badlav (change). It was thought-out technique to steer clear of naming Prime Minister Modi. As an alternative, the main focus was on the then incumbent Jai Ram Thakur authorities and the way they didn’t fulfill their guarantees”, stated a member of Priyanka’s workforce.
In Karnataka, although, Priyanka was extra adversarial in direction of Modi.
When he complained at a rally in Bidar that the Congress had hurled gaaliyan (insults) at him “91 occasions”, Priyanka took him on in a speech at Jamkhandi. She famous that if the BJP’s insults in opposition to her household had been listed, a number of books is likely to be crammed.
She marvelled that she was seeing a PM “crying” in entrance of the general public for the primary time. “Somewhat than listening to your issues, he talks about his complaints,” she stated.
In one other scathing speech in Vijayapura district, she requested the way it was that the “omniscient and omnipresent” PM couldn’t see the corruption in Karnataka or the actions of the “40 per cent fee authorities”— an oft-used slogan by the Congress to indicate the alleged demand by BJP leaders of a 40 per cent fee to clear payments for presidency tenders.
“She used to watch Modi’s speeches and take notes. When he began taking part in the sufferer card, we knew we needed to step in. That was additionally the time when the BJP was desperately banking on the PM. We noticed that the assaults had resonance,” Priyanka’s workforce member stated. “Extra importantly, Modi didn’t go after her like he would go after Rahul.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
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