Won’t contest poll: Priyanka

Focused on reviving party, brother Rahul will take Narendra Modi head-on, she says

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 14.02.19, 3:20 AM
  • Updated 14.02.19, 3:20 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at the Sanganer airport in Jaipur, Monday, February 11, 2019. (PTI)

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is said to have told party workers during nightlong meetings in Lucknow that she will not contest the Lok Sabha elections, and later told reporters that Rahul Gandhi would take Narendra Modi head-on.

Priyanka, who has been appointed Congress general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh and assigned the watch of 41 constituencies, held 14 meetings in 15 hours with Congress functionaries at the party’s Lucknow office before retiring for the day at 5am on Wednesday.

She is believed to have told party workers that she found the job of reviving the party much more important and riveting than contesting elections.

Congress sources said Priyanka expressed disappointment when some elected representatives at the meetings failed to provide basic information such as the number of villages in their respective areas and how many votes rival parties had got in the last election.

“I am trying to understand what kind of district and block-level Congress committees we have at the moment. It is a good learning process,” Priyanka told reporters before leaving for a hotel early in the morning to take rest after holding the nightlong meetings that started at 2pm on Tuesday.

Asked what would be her strategy and whether there would be a fight (takkar) with Modi, Priyanka said: “Rahulji is there. Rahuji will directly fight Modi.”

Responding to a question on her husband Robert Vadra and mother-in-law Maureen’s questioning by the Enforcement Directorate in a land scam case in Bikaner, Rajasthan, Priyanka said: “Such things will continue to happen and I will continue doing my job.”

Sanjay Tiwari, a Congress leader from Phulpur and former student leader at Allahabad University who was present at one of the meetings, said: “I requested her to either contest the Lok Sabha election from Phulpur, because her great grandfather and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had represented the seat thrice between 1952 and 1964, or from adjoining Allahabad, the birthplace of Nehru and her grandmother Indira Gandhi. But she said she wouldn’t contest the Lok Sabha polls and that she would only manage the party and prepare it for the elections.”

A Congress worker from Amethi told this newspaper on condition of anonymity that Priyanka was disappointed with some of the leaders.

“She looked disappointed when some MLAs and MLCs failed to explain to her the ground realities and socio-political dynamics of their respective areas. She asked them how they came into politics when they were not aware of the number of villages or voters in their areas,” he said.

“Some party workers complained to her that a section of former and sitting MLAs and MLCs misbehave with poor people and never visit the villages. Some of the workers were so blunt they told Priyanka these leaders believed they would keep getting election tickets if they kept showing their smiling faces to her or Rahul,” the party worker from Amethi said.

Mata Deen, a Congress worker from Lucknow, described Priyanka as “simple and warm”.

“She made me emotional. I told her that some of her MLAs and MLCs are bad people. I suggested frankly that she think about this seriously if she wants to succeed as general secretary. Otherwise, she will keep working night and day to strengthen the party and these leaders will eat it like termites.”

Several hundred Congress workers and onlookers had gathered in front of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee office as Priyanka held meetings inside.

Rahul Awasthi, a youth from Lucknow who was carrying a poster on which was written “Iron lady is back”, said: “Modi’s stooges claim he works 10 or 12 hours a day. Priyanka didi is working from noon to 5am the next day. Modi’s days are over. We had former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was the iron lady in the past, and we have Priyanka, the iron lady in the present and the future.”

Waiting to meet Priyanka, madarsa teacher Afaq Alam Ansari said: “I am here to tell the Congress general secretary that Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav are agents of Modi and so the Muslims will vote for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections.”

Two hours later, Mulayam said in Parliament that he wished to see Modi back as Prime Minister.

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