UP Election 2017: What is Priyanka Gandhi's 'role' in Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance?

In what could be seen as an announcement of her arrival, several senior Congress leaders on Sunday acknowledged the role of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in striking an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh. The crucial state Assembly polls are almost here and a senior Congress leader told IANS that Priyanka played a key role in sealing the deal with the SP.

Senior Congress functionaries like Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad separately acknowledged Priyanka's role in giving the final shape to the alliance with the SP, which at one point had hit a roadblock. Azad is also the in-charge of Uttar Pradesh.

Another low came in the talks when the Congress reportedly sent "political lightweights" like Prashant Kishor to negotiate with the SP leadership. However, the Congress on Sunday said there were no "political lightweights" and Priyanka herself was involved in the talks.

Patel, who is political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, tweeted:.

"I have not spoken to any leader from the Samajwadi Party. News reports mentioning this are incorrect," he said.

Separately, Azad said that Priyanka Gandhi played a crucial role in forging the alliance with the SP, according to which the Congress would contest 105 seats while the SP will fight on 298 seats.

Reports said that apart from Azad, who leveraged his rapport with his Rajya Sabha colleague and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's close confidante Ram Gopal Yadav and called him late on Saturday night, Priyanka called Akhilesh's wife Dimple and set the ball rolling. Priyanka also spoke to the chief minister, and so did Congress' poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who was flown in to Lucknow at short notice. Kishor was in Uttarakhand, reports had earlier said. Kishor urged Akhilesh to look at the larger picture and not to allow the alliance to be jeopardised on account of a few seats.

The SP was initially offering Congress around 90 seats, while the latter was not ready to accept anything less than 120. The talks hit a roadblock, but the two parties finally pulled off a deal and formally announced an alliance at a joint presser in Lucknow.

Priyanka, Congress sources said, will campaign extensively in the polls, with Rahul Gandhi as well as separately. She may also campaign along with Dimple.

The acknowledgement of her proactive role by the Congress party — for the first time perhaps — is significant as it portends the change of guard and a generational shift at the Congress. There was a last minute negotiation that clinched the deal and paved the way for the alliance. This is the first time that the Samajwadi Party formed a poll alliance with any national party for elections. This is also the first time that Priyanka has been actively involved in crucial alliance negotiations

Both the parties have come a long way from 2012 when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tore up the SP manifesto during a public rally. "They promise that they will give power, water, employment and if not employment then unemployment allowance...this is mere list of assurances...," he had said at an election meeting and tore a paper it to stress his point.

"Did you understand?" he had asked, referring to his act of tearing the paper, and said, "Only promises will not do".

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jan 23, 2017 14:39:50 IST