The Congress on Wednesday made official a long-awaited news — the party appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East. This is a major development ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, not only because this is Priyanka's official entry into politics, but also because it might pave the way for Sonia Gandhi to exit from politics by handing over her Rae Bareli constituency to her daughter.
While giving Priyanka this position opens up the Congress to attacks from the BJP over her husband Robert Vadra's allegedly illegal dealings, the grand old party hopes she will help improve the party's chances in the state by reviving Uttar Pradesh politics, as her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi said.
Uttar Pradesh East key to state politics
Another point to note is that the division she has been appointed to oversee — Uttar Pradesh East — is key region in both state and national politics. In this region of Uttar Pradesh lies a number of key Lok Sabha constituencies, including Varanasi represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul's Amethi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli and Azamgarh represented by Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's former Lok Sabha constituency Gorakhpur, too, is in Uttar Pradesh East. Adityanath is also the head priest of the Gorakhpur Math. The Gorakhpur seat is currently represented by Samajwadi Party leader Praveen Kumar Nishad.
It is also significant that Ayodhya, the heart of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, is located in the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, represented by BJP leader Lallu Singh.
Moreover, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav represents the Mubarakpur Assembly constituency, which falls under his father Mulayam Singh's Azamgarh parliamentary seat, and BSP chief Mayawati once represented the Ambedkar Nagar constituency.
The Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat is represented by Union minister Anupriya Patel, a leader of BJP-ally Apna Dal. The Pratapgarh Lok Sabha constituency in this region is also represented by an Apna Dal leader Kunwar Haribansh Singh.
Union minister Manoj Sinha represents the Ghazipur parliamentary constituency.
It can also be noted that BJP leader and Union minister Smriti Irani had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Amethi to Rahul.
Among the other constituencies in Uttar Pradesh East are Allahabad, Bhadohi, Jaunpur, Basti, Chandauli, Deoria, Sant Kabir Nagar, Ballia and Maharajganj.
Demography: Right vs Dalits
At present, the BJP and its allies hold power in a majority of constituencies, which are predominantly Hindu. The Hindu population in these seats range from 75.83 percent (Sant Kabir Nagar district) to 92.73 percent (Ballia district). This, along with the fact that most MLAs from this region are BJP leaders, indicates the right-wing inclination of the voters of this region.
The demography also signifies the tough fight the Congress has in store for it in the Lok Sabha elections, and that Priyanka has her work cut out for her.
However, the significant Scheduled Caste population in the districts in Uttar Pradesh East (16 percent to 26 percent) could sway the votes away from the saffron front to the newly-formed alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, an alliance that the Congress was more or less shunted out of. But given the Congress' current stand of being satisfied with any vote that the BJP loses, even if it means the Congress losing the vote too, Priyanka may not make this the focus of her work.
In Uttar Pradesh East, Priyanka may put in more efforts towards drawing upper caste votes, which are usually split between the Congress and BJP. It is clear from the BJP holding power in most of Uttar Pradesh East that voters in the region have been more inclined towards the saffron party, making this voter base high on Priyanka's list of priorities.
In 2014, it was Narendra Modi versus Arvind Kejriwal contest in Varanasi, Rahul Gandhi versus Smriti Irani in Amethi, Mulayam Singh versus BJP's Ramakant Yadav in Azamgarh, Sonia Gandhi versus BJP leader Ajay Agarwal in Rae Bareli and Sanjwadi Party's Praveen Kumar Nishad versus the BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla in Gorakhpur.
With 80 Lok Sabha seats, Uttar Pradesh is key to winning the parliamentary elections. Adding to this, the names mentioned above are enough to signify the importance of the Uttar Pradesh East region that Priyanka has been given charge of. Every possible bigwig associated with Uttar Pradesh politics has direct links to Uttar Pradesh East, underlining the importance of the role Priyanka will play in shaping the Congress strategy for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2019 17:07:51 IST