Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is the latest entrant into Indian politics from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Her political debut last week in a roadshow in Uttar Pradesh, is seen as a game changer ahead of Lok Sabha election 2019.
Uttar Pradesh is a big state with a big population of 220 million people. It offers 80 Lok Sabha seats, which is largest among any state in the country, which can help any party to become a major political force in the Parliamentary elections. But the state is dominated by two strong regional caste-based parties(BSP and SP), which is fighting for power with the BJP, where Congress is only a single and marginal. In the last elections, the BJP won 73 of the 80 seats in the state. The Congress party has continuously lost its ground for the past 10 years. In the 2009 general election in Uttar Pradesh, Congress won 21 seats, but in the 2014 election, it won just 2. Besides, the pre-poll alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) is a seen a huge hurdle for the Congress to garner huge votes. Congress leadership might have felt that winning as many seats in the UP through Priyanka Gandhi could be a big boost for the party to capture the power.
Some political experts feel Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry into politics is a clear signal that that her brother Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, has failed many times. Despite the recent successes in three state assembly elections, many also feel that the party is desperate to find more fighting power to take on the ruling BJP at a national level. Since, the Congress party is not being accepted to join the grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) in many states, Priyanka, who is from his (Rahul's) family, is forced to fight the election along with her brother.
The Congress feels that Priyanka Gandhi can emerge successful in capitalising on the goodwill that the Nehru-Gandhi family continues to retain in some parts of the Uttar Pradesh. The party believes that Priyanka has the charisma and crowd-pulling capacity can be used for attracting a large section of people in UP. One among the primary aspects is that her physical resemblance with her grandmother Indira Gandhi. Political experts and activists have observed and pointed out repeatedly this attribute could be an important tool. Besides, they hope that the Congress could emerge successful in rekindling the party's old emotional appeal thereby winning some seats. Since, the party has seen few victories after a disastrous performance in the 2014 general election, her entry will offer the much needed morale boost.
Many political experts feel that there is anti incumbency against BJP in Uttar Pradesh. As the saffron party is running both the central and state governments. This could alienate a part of the voters, who are often titled as 'floating voters' who could offer the winning margin in the election. Many also feel that this kind of voters are the people who could have sided with the BJP in 2014 and 2017 to bring a change in the state. Moreover, BSP-SP Alliance could be a big hurdle for BJP. Since both the parties had a pre-poll alliance in the 1993 assembly election, where BJP lost heavily due to the alliance. Congress leadership might have felt that Priyanka Gandhi campaign could grab a bigger pie during such the battle. Moreover, Congress feels that they could capitalise on the rising discontent throughout the country with issues like weak economy, bad loans, unhappy backward communities and lacklustre job growth.
Priyanka Gandhi's arrival in the politics through the eastern Uttar Pradesh can bring much needed boost to the Congress. Since the party is focussed on parliament seats where most of the family members have won previously. But it won't be easy for the new Gandhi to get big wins easily. Besides, playing old emotional connections during the elections has often resulted in failure. One must observe that the arrival of a new Gandhi member cannot fix the internal problems of the organisation and cannot guarantee a sweeping win in the elections.