Lucknow, Feb 12: Will Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaign only in Amethi and Rae Bareli districts in the coming days? Or she will oblige Congress supporters and sympathisers in rest of Uttar Pradesh too? The answer to this enduring mystery remains elusive yet again as it remains unclear what stops Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from campaigning widely in Uttar Pradesh.
When the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance took shape for the UP Assembly election last month, it was widely reported that Priyanka and Dimple Yadav, SP MP from Kannauj and wife of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, may appear together for the alliance campaign. Even the campaign vehicles had been draped with slogans and visuals featuring Priyanka besides Rahul, Mulayam Singh Yadav and of course Dimple and Akhilesh.
It was also learnt that Priyanka had played a crucial role in finalising the seat-sharing arrangements between the two parties when things had reached a stalemate.
On January 29, when Rahul and Akhilesh Yadav had addressed the press in Lucknow, Rahul had replied to a specific question that his sister Priyanka will herself decide where and when she will campaign for the alliance. Notably, her name had been included in the list of star campaigners for the first phase of elections for 73 seats in western UP that was held on February 11, but she chose not to campaign there.
So far, her campaign appearance is confirmed only for Amethi and Rae Bareli where she will be camping for five days beginning February 13. Her schedule remains uncertain for the rest of the state. Sources in the Congress also say that the earlier reports of Priyanka having agreed to campaign in a selected 100-odd seats were not correct. Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to be in Rae Bareli on February 20, Rahul on February 18 and in Amethi on February 24.
The burden of the campaign rests largely on the shoulders of Rahul who appeared together with Akhilesh at several places and will campaign solo in many other places. On the other hand, Dimple Yadav has joined the campaign in right earnest, having addressed several meetings in many districts during the campaign for the first round.
In the 2012 Assembly election and the 2014 Lok Sabha election too, Priyanka had appeared for campaigning only in Amethi and rae bareli despite earlier claims that she will do so in the entire state.
Incidentally, Amethi is among the one dozen seats in UP where the two partner parties are facing each other in the electoral contest because of disagreement over who should withdraw. Rahul Gandhi represents Amethi in the Lok Sabha, but in the state Assembly, seven seats are held by the SP.
The most prominent representative from here is former minister Gayatri Prajapati, said to be a confidante of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The significance of being Gayatri is evident from the fact that despite the local royal Sanjay Singh fielding his (second) wife Amita Singh as the Congress nominee from Amethi, Gayatri remains in the fray as the Samajwadi Party candidate.
If Priyanka indeed comes to Amethi for campaigning as reported, then it will be interesting to see if she asks for support to both the Congress and SP candidates as both remain in the fray. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is February 13, and the polling is scheduled for February 23.
Besides Amethi and Rae Bareli, there are constituencies in Barabanki and Kanpur where candidates from both parties are have filed their papers and hectic backstage parleys are on to ask one of them to withdraw. A report said defiant Congress candidates were being called up by none else than Sonia Gandhi to either withdraw their papers by the due date, or address a joint press meet with the SP candidate to announce that they will support the latter.
Insiders say that the coordination between the two parties especially at the district levels and below was not quite good. There were reservations on both sides on appearing together on stage for campaigning. According to these sources, the party could be trying to avoid any unpleasant scene in the presence of Priyanka in places beyond Amethi and Rae Bareli.
And finally, Priyanka's limited campaign itinerary could always be explained as being the personal decision on her part, as a bigger role for her could be in store for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. If the alliance with the SP continued till then, the much-awaited Priyanka-Dimple photo-opportunity could come up then.