Priyanka is charming, but UP voters want more

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 31, 2012 06:53 hrs

The moot question doing the rounds in Uttar Pradesh these days is: "Will Priyanka Gandhi's charisma be able to pull out the state Congress from the dumps in the Vidhan Sabha elections?"

Taking lessons from the past, Nehru-Gandhi family loyalists are always seen raising a demand for Priyanka's campaign efforts from the time the polls are announced.

Considered as a natural leader and bearing a striking resemblance to her grandmother, the young Gandhian instantly strikes a rapport with the locals and this is her USP.

Prior to every election we witness a guessing game in the party, and then you hear the old guards, along with Gen X leaders, jointly raise their voices demanding that "Beti Priyanka" campaigns for the party.

Several times the district Congress Committee passes resolutions expressing their sentiments for the young Gandhi. Finally after much fuss, the party High Command relents and Priyanka is back on the campaign trial.

However the irony of the matter is that many times Priyanka's campaigning is restricted to the parliamentary constituency of mother Sonia in Rae Bareili and brother Rahul's Amethi seat.

A Congress party insider, who was disappointed with Priyanka being restricted to these constituencies, said: "Why cannot our party look beyond Rae Bareili and Amethi... after-all the poll results would come from the entire state and not just from two seats. No wonder the Congress is unable to improve its performance."

Perhaps the observation was more than correct. Even in the previous 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka dashed across from New Delhi to charm the villagers of Rae Bareli and Amethi seeking votes for mother Sonia and brother Rahul.

However it is believed that Priyanka would campaign beyond the two VVIP constituencies to ensure that the party performs well in the elections.

A comparison between the brother sister duo shows that Priyanka's TRP happens to be much higher than Rahul.

Although this time Rahul has dispelled his earlier young boy image as he took on UP Chief Minister Mayawati over many issues. And by wooing the Dalits and Muslims he has an eye on the caste politics in the state.

Senior Congress members felt that if Priyanka toured the state and addressed a series of meetings, the party was bound to do well in the upcoming elections.

A close study on the impact of Priyanka's campaign showed that in 2007 Vidhan Sabha polls, the party won at least one third of its total 22 seats from the Rae Bareli-Amethi region. There was a marked increase in the vote percentage.

In 2002 polls, Amethi polled 28.6 per cent votes which increased to 40.59 per cent in 2007. Similarly in Jagdishpur, the increase in the percentage was 3.04 per cent to 37 percent, in Salon, 25.17 to 37.14, in Dalmau constituency, 9.32 to 36.38, and in Bachchrawan, 9.95 to 33.19 per cent.

Although the Congress lost in Tiloi , Sultanpur and Gauriganj, there was a increase in the vote share.

Priyanka first stepped into the shoes of her mother and grandmother, agreeing to campaign in 1999. It was observed that despite the VVIP campaigns, Priyanka's charisma did not stay on from the Lok Sabha to the 2007 Vidhan Sabha elections.

Going by the ground realities, recently when the young Gandhi scion was on a three-day tour of the two parliamentary constituency she was obviously greeted by the people. But at the same time the voters bombarded her with questions, "Where were you all this while?"

The surprised Priyanka had little alternative than to ask them to carry on reprimanding her. "It is your right to scold me if I have committed a mistake," she said.

The very statement is ample proof that the voters will no longer be swayed simply by Priyanka's good mannerisms and charming looks.

A resident did not hesitate in saying, "There is no doubt that Priyanka has a very pleasing personality and her body language is similar to that of her grandmother the late Prime  Minister Indira Gandhi, but the fact remains that she is only to be seen campaigning in elections, once the polls are over she vanishes and never visits again till the  next elections".

The remarks by the people show that it will not be an easy task for Priyanka this time. She, however, pointed out her agenda, reiterating: "I will do anything to help brother Rahul in the polls".

At the same time she ruled out possibilities of her entering into active politics, saying that she was always present to support her brother in his efforts to revive the Congress.

She was confident that the party would perform well and be successful in dethroning the present corrupt Mayawati Government in Uttar Pradesh.

Congressmen, whose morale was boosted by the presence of the brother-sister duo, became overconfident about the party's poll prospects. They said that it was more or less decided that Priyanka would not restrict her campaigning to  just the two VVIP constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi but would assist brother Rahul in addressing poll meetings in other parts of the state as well.

Political analysts are of the view that the controversy, raked as a result of the Lokpal Bill and social activist Anna Hazare's tirade against corruption in the UPA, would definitely produce some kind of an impact.

Though it is said that public memory is rather short-lived, and issues like the price hike of commodities would cast a shadow on the Congress' prospects.

Even as electioneering is picking up, the villagers are keenly awaiting Priyanka's next visit as the slogan in the air is "Amethi ki danka betiya Priyanka".

Will the Gandhi sister be able to tone down the tempers of the villagers who at least expect her to visit them and see their plight once the polls are over?

Political observers on the other hand wonder whether or not the brother-sister duo would be able to ensure gains for the party and revive its lost glory -- since the party has been out of power for more than two decades in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh.