Express News Service

LUCKNOW: Will Priyanka Gandhi be projected as the UP CM candidate in 2022? Though the party remains tight-lipped on the issue, she herself does not rule out the possibility.  

“It is too early to give any such projection. Let the appropriate time come,” said Priyanka Gandhi when asked by a group of media persons during an interaction in mid-July in Lucknow.

The onus of rejuvenating the grand old party in the country’s politically most crucial state ahead of the 2022 poll battle is quite big on the Congress general secretary. After getting into active politics in 2019 and taking charge, first of eastern UP and then the whole state, Priyanka has been trying hard to revive the party prospects in the state with a special focus on the 2022 Assembly elections.

Priyanka, who was seen quite baffled when asked to explain her absence from Uttar Pradesh for a year and a half when she came down to Lucknow on a three-day visit in mid-July,  tried to put the party’s house in order by meeting a few senior and veteran Congress leaders and placate them to bring the new generation and the oldies in the party on the same page before 2022 electoral battle.

“This visit of Priyanka Gandhi was more for pepping up the party workers and readying them for the upcoming 2022 state assembly polls. But during the drought period between her visits to the state, the local leaders get busy in settling their personal scores with each other rather than nursing party interests,” said a senior Congress leader seeking anonymity.

UPCC chief Ajai Kumar Lallu accepts the party is facing many challenges in the state. “Reviving the organisation at the grass-root level, making the party leaders at district level realise their worth as Congress workers and increasing the visibility of Congress as an organisation in UP’s political arena are to count a few,” he says.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when she was looking after the poll management of mother Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli, and brother Rahul Gandhi in Amethi personally besides overseeing the Congress’s fight in the state as a whole, the party lost the bastion of Amethi and it could win just one seat of Rea Bareli.

So, 2022 assumes more significance as it would be a litmus test for the Congress general secretary’s orgainsational skills and poll management as the gasping grand old party needs the oxygen of a better organisation and also her popularity to stop the saffron juggernaut.

ALSO READ | 2022 UP polls: BJP chief to impart ‘Jeet ka mantra’ to mantris

At present, Congress is at its lowest in UP assembly with just seven MLAs of which two are rebels during the last three decades. “During the last three decades, Congress lost its sheen in UP. The party organisation has eroded and touched the nadir. They have lost people’s faith. Priyanka has the towering responsible for regaining that lost ground, even if to an extent, and increasing the party’s strength in the UP legislature. Will she be able to do it is yet to be seen,” says Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.

However, the Congress general secretary is trying to strengthen the party organisation since 2019. When she was appointed UP in charge, the party in UP had 500- member state executive committee. She pruned it to 115 and Ajai Kumar Lallu, a leader belonging backward class is made to head the state unit of the Party.

Now the UPCC executive has 16 general secretaries and six vice-presidents. Caste balance was kept in mind while re-constituting it. Of 115 members, 34%  each belong to upper and backward castes, 17% Muslims, 12% SC/ST and 1% Sikh community, and the remaining 2% others.

Even at the district level, the party has been re-organised with 36 of 75 district presidents coming from upper castes, 12 are Muslim, and 19 are from backward castes.

“Didi has taken feedback about leaders who are recognised at the grass-root level and has appointed them as district chiefs. The party is in the process of setting up a 21-member committee across over 58000-gram panchayats for better communication with people,” says UPCC chief.

‘Besides, veterans are being used in different committees set up at the state level to bring the party into active mode before 2022  polls,” adds Lallu.

However, the confusion over the alliance with parties in upcoming polls is still prevailing. While senior Congress leaders of the state are against any alliance, Priyanka told them at a meeting last month that the scope of any such possibility should be left open.

The highly placed sources in the party claimed that the identification of candidates for 2022 has started in the party and around 160-165 such names are final.

At the same time, Priyanka is also concentrating on booth management, and high-end training is being imparted to Congress workers by master trainers in Chhattisgarh. “The party wants to replicate the performance of Chhattisgarh in UP,” said a senior Congress leader.