Why Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s formal entry into politics matters
It's been a long time coming but it's official now. With her appointment as Congress party's general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has become the latest member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to formally enter Indian politics.
While only time will whether she turns out to be the oft-touted trump card she is thought to be, if the initial buzz of her appointment is followed by hard work on the ground, her entry is fair warning to both friend and foe.
With the timing, location and nature of her assignment giving ample clues about the gains, the Congress expects to make in the short term along with the change in its long-term direction.
Timing: Puts Congress back in the UP 2019 narrative
The initial expectations come in the form of the party getting a much-needed morale boost and becoming a part of the political narrative in UP, considered crucial for national ambitions with its 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Such an announcement coming barely ten days after Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party's decision to fight the 2019 general elections as an alliance and to leave the Congress out of it seems more than just a coincidence.
The exclusion clearly has had an influence on the call taken given the embarrassment it must have caused Priyanka's brother and Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, as well as its demoralizing impact on the already weak party cadre.
Her campaigning skills, long appreciated by various political commentators, along with the Congress' declaration of fighting on all seats might push for a rethink by the SP-BSP combo in allotting the party some space. Especially given the possible spoiler the split of Muslim and youth vote can play for the Congress-less mahagathbandhan.
Location: Targets Congress-less Mahagathbandhan in Bihar and the BJP
The location of eastern UP also hints at an attempt to nip in the bud the idea of a Congress-less mahagathbandhan in neighbouring Bihar.
The rumours of which have gained traction after the leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Tejashvi Yadav, met SP's Akhilesh Yadav and BSP's Mayawati after the UP alliance was announced. Priyanka's active participation on this side of the border is bound to cause ripple effects in Bihar.
Additionally, the location of her assignment also puts focus on two fronts. First is the direct impact on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party by having the potential to put a dent in its upper caste vote bank, in a region where the saffron party is bound to face a tough challenge from the SP-BSP combine.
The move could also tie up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister given that Modi's constituency Varanasi and Adityanath's stronghold of Gorakhpur are in eastern UP, setting up a direct challenge with Priyanka.
The Congress' future: It's Rahul-Priyanka time and UP matters
The last five years have not only seen Rahul play a more prominent role in his party but also the gradual fading away of his mother, Sonia Gandhi, from active political life, particularly after handing over the presidency of the party.
And as health issues keep her away, Priyanka's increasing role in organizational issues in a state as important as UP clearly points to a working relationship where the brother-sister duo would team up to run the party.
With a possible step of her standing for elections this term or even taking up a bigger role in UP's state election would sound like music to Congress supporters. Moves that could galvanize the party's cadre in a state where no party that wants to be a credible national player can afford to vanish from.
Given all the future possibilities, one thing is certain for now, the quietly echoed slogan 'Priyanka lao, Congress Bachao' (loosely translated as Bring Priyanka, Save Congress'), heard after every defeat the grand old party suffered over the last five years (and there've been plenty of them) can be put to rest, one way or another.