UP Election 2017: As Priyanka Gandhi disappears from Amethi, Raebareli, Lalu Prasad Yadav steers Congress ship

It is highly mystifying to people in Raebareli. They had seen it in TV, read it in newspapers that Priyanka Gandhi was the one who finally saw to it that Congress’ alliance deal with Samajwadi Party was sealed. They had also come to know through media reports and from whatever political gossip they had heard that she was now poised to take a bigger role, campaign all over Uttar Pradesh than just nurturing twin family constituencies, Raebareli and Amethi.

Priyanka Gandhi. PTI

Priyanka Gandhi. PTI

But people here were in for a surprise of a different kind. They are in fact a bit intrigued by her absence. Last time they had enough of Priyanka Gandhi in 2012 assembly elections, who was here for about a fortnight, had gone to almost every big nukkad in six assembly segments of her mother’s parliamentary constituency, spoke there, waved hands, spent moments with womenfolk, party workers and other sundry voters in all strata of society.

But this election presents a completely different situation. People here hardly got a chance to see Priyanka. She came here only for half-a-day with brother Rahul Gandhi, attended two public meetings at two places and spoke briefly at one of them.

While local Congress leaders claim that Priyanka was occupied with some family matters but that’s no explanation for ordinary locals. In the last Assembly election, she had held about three dozen rallies in six assembly segments Raebareli and slightly less number in four assembly segments of Amethi parliamentary constituency, held by her brother Rahul. In the parliamentary election, she was managing Raebareli and Amethi.

Congress’ first family loyalists in the region who would go on talking about her ability to remember names of people in villages, names of party workers and ask for their wellbeing, have now become silent.

Despite Priyanka's nukkad to nukkad campaign, the result of last assembly election was hugely disappointing for the Congress – the party lost every single seat in Raebareli parliamentary seat.

Ranmat Singh, a young self-employed in Raebareli said, “It looks like she has read the writing on the wall and thus didn’t want to have the disrepute that every time in assembly she campaigns Congress loses badly. She is thus keeping herself away from the place. It’s ironic that Gandhis are avoiding a place which is supposed to be their pocket borough.”

Another argument came from Suman Pandey near Unchahar in Raebareli.

“We are hearing that Priyanka, not Sonia Gandhi would be contesting from Raebareli in 2019. In previous elections, either the BSP or the SP have played a supportive role to Gandhi family in Raebareli and Amethi. In 2014 SP and BSP didn’t file candidates in Amethi against Rahul. If Priyanka had come for an extensive campaign here how could she not have campaigned in constituencies where Congress is in a friendly fight with SP and in that situation she had to take on SP, BSP and BJP. Moreover, the ground situation is something else. The BJP has emerged as a powerful challenger, that upsets all calculations by Congress’s strategists,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi has not come out in these elections even once. She has also not come to her parliamentary constituency apparently due to health reasons. A Congress worker who didn’t identify himself rued, “We are left at the mercy of likes and dislikes of Kishori Lal Sharma (the man who officially manages these twin constituencies for Sonia and Rahul.” Sharma’s continuance at this position is indicative of the fact that Gandhis like and trust him but as much Gandhis like him he is disliked by a section of Congress leaders here.

Ironically it was RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who was fielded to campaign for Congress in absence of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. In his own indomitable style, Lalu entertained the crowd on last day of campaigning on Tuesday, mimicked Narendra Modi and boasted how he humbled Modi, Amit Shah and BJP in Bihar and continue to do so. But will Lalu’s comic speech help Congress candidates fortunes in Sonia Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency is a million dollar question.

Lalu campaigning for Congress candidates in Raebareli is interesting. He didn’t go campaigning for Samajwadi Party, with which he now has a family relation. Is it suggestive of something else?

Is Lalu trying to get closer to Sonia and Rahul, doing a political posturing that should a time for him to part ways with Nitish Kumar comes, he can bank on Congress’s support.

Lalu has always been close to Sonia Gandhi but him being fielded as a propelling force for Congress in Raebareli, that too on the last day of polling has made a section of voters in the area wonder – whether Gandhis have given up in these elections.

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 09:46:24 IST

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