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UP 2017: Congress remains tight-lipped about CM candidate, but could it be Priyanka?

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 4 July 2016, 13:32 IST

A tweet on Sunday that quoted Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Satyadev Tripathi caused quite some excitement in the party's ranks. The tweet said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would address 150 rallies across the state in the run-up to the 2017 assembly election. However, there's no word yet on whether she will be the party's chief ministerial candidate.

Satyadev Tripathi was reported to have said that the prospect of Priyanka addressing rallies across the length and breadth of the state had enthused workers.

Also Read: Which Gandhi has the most power? Surprise, surprise... it's Priyanka!

The party's general secretary and UP in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad neither confirmed nor denied the statement.

Speaking to the media after an Iftaar party at a hotel in Lucknow, Azad said a decision on Priyanka heading the campaign will be taken at an appropriate time.

Veteran Congress leader Ammar Rizvi, who attended Azad's Iftaar party, said he too had written to the party high command emphasising the importance of Priyanka spearheading the poll campaign. "A decision has been taken but to say she will address 150 rallies or 250 will be politically unwise."

Keeping it quiet

Tripathi subsequently denied having said anything about Priyanka, but another source in the party said the decision on the issue had already been taken.

A formal announcement would be made when the time is right, the source said.

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He said the decision could be taken after the party's state leadership is changed. Congress Legislature Party leader Pradeep Mathur could also be replaced, the source added.

The party has been doing a flip-flop on the role Priyanka should play in the forthcoming elections.

While a section is of the view that Priyanka alone can change the party's fortunes in UP, former state in-charge Madhusudan Mistry has dismissed talk that Priyanka could emerge as the CM face.

Picking leaders

Those rooting for Priyanka include 600 of the party's 620 block chiefs, who look at her as a strong leader and as the party's trump card. They are of the view that her oratory and organisational skills have already been proved in Amethi and Rae Bareli.

Priyanka, who has until now confined herself to managing the constituencies of her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul, is perceived as the Congress's only hope.

The clamour for her to spearhead the party's poll campaign grew louder after Prashant Kishor took charge of the UPCC's strategy room.

Reportedly, Priyanka has no plans to enter politics and contest elections. That is the reason why the Congress is not projecting her as CM face. But campaigning for the party is a different matter.

Also Read: 2017 UP assembly polls: Prashant Kishor wants Priyanka Gandhi to campaign for Congress

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit has been suggested by some partymen as an alternative chief ministerial candidate in UP if Priyanka remain firm on not entering politics.

Whether Priyanka agrees to being projected as the chief ministerial candidate or not, the manner in which her name has cropped up and the secrecy surrounding it has made the Congress a talking point in all political circles.

Desperate times

The 2017 election being crucial for both the Congress and the BJP, it was Prashant Kishor who impressed upon the party leadership that in this do-or-die battle Priyanka should not be confined to the family pocket boroughs.

Others who are in demand for campaigning include former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Test captain Mohammad Azharuddin.

Like the BJP, the Congress too is in search of a candidate who could be projected as chief minister in the state.

While the BJP can't decide on whether it should be a Brahmin, Thakur or Dalit, for the Congress Sheila Dikshit's name came up when it was realised that Brahmins were being sidelined by the SP, BSP and the BJP.

Dikshit was considered to be more charismatic than Rita Bahuguna Joshi and more reliable than Pramod Tiwari, who is known for his proximity with c SP hief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Another Brahmin leader Rajesh Misra from Varanasi was also an option but it was beleived that his selection would antagonise another prominent leader Ajay Rai.

With the Congress and the BJP playing a waiting game on naming their chief ministerial candidates, the news of Priyanka campaigning in other parts of the state is sure to galvanise the party's workers.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also Read: Priyanka Gandhi to be Congress' 'face', set to campaign across UP for upcoming polls

First published: 4 July 2016, 13:32 IST