PRIYANKA’S RETURN: New face of Congress arrives home from foreign visit; gets office next to Rahuil’s in AICC office


Is Mamata trying to be one up on Mayawati and other PM hopefuls?

NEW DELHI: With an office room provided next to party chief Rahul Gandhi’s at the AICC headquarters here, sister Priyanka Gandhi will start functioning as new General Secretary of the Congress this week. A name plate, describing her as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was put up in front of her office room Tuesday. 

Priyanka Gandhi returned from a foreign sojourn in the US etc Monday night. She was closeted with her brother and mother for discussions Tuesday, party sources said, adding her return has given a big boost to the morale of Congressmen across the country. The inclusion of Vadra’s name in her nameplate indicated that she was willing to squarely face the fireworks against her and her husband caught in land scams in Haryana and elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi as President of the party called a meeting of Congress general secretaries at the AICC headquarters Thursday, in which Priyanka will prominently participate. She is currently made in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, where falls key constituencies like Varanasi of PM Modi, as also the Nehru family pocketboroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

The meeting of general secretaries will be followed by a meeting of PCC chiefs and parliamentary party leaders from various states, who would put their heads together to evolve a strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, which is expected by April. 

The Congress’ present strategy for the polls, to anchor its base on rural folk and farmers, partly crumbled as Prime Minister Modi came up with a Budget for this year promising attractive steps for the farmers, the rural folk and the salaried middle class. It went much beyond the loan waiver the Congress announced for farmers in three states it captured recently — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. 

The Congress sees this coming polls as a do-or-die battle, in which it will somehow have to oust Prime Minister Modi — and BJP — from power. At the same time, opinion polls far have predicted a hung assembly, with three principal contenders for power failing to get a majority. These three are the BJP, the Congress and the proposed alliance of regional parties. 

Opinion polls have stated in one voice that the BSP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh would capture most of the seats in key battleground state, which has the largest bloc of 80 seats in Parliament. While the BSP-SP alliance is likely to project Mayawati as PM nominee in case there is scope for a bargain for PM post after the polls, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying her best to emerge as the most potent contender for the post, next only to Modi. 

Her staging of a huge protest in Kolkata since Sunday over the CBI action against her confidant cop, Rajeev Kumar, who currently handles the post of police commissioner in the eastern metropolis, is also aimed at projecting her image as the best bet for the nation to oust PM Modi and the BJP from power. On the other hand, Mayawati is quietly watching the scenario and moving her cards, with emphasis on first emerging as the top leader in Uttar Pradesh  again in the LS polls. Both SP and the BSP would contest about the same number of LS seats.

Mamata Banerjee’s over-activism in Calcutta is amid at outwitting the other contenders for PM post, including Mayawati. Mamata is trying to unify the regional parties with rare frenzy to position herself as the centre of the Opposition unity sans the Congress. Chances are also that the regional satraps would rather put Mamata in the front, rather than Mayawati, unless this comes as the last option. Mayawati understands this, and she would not attempt any mega shows like what Mamata Banerjee did in Kolkata. 

However, chances are also that, worst comes to worse, Mayawati would back either the BJP or the Congress if she has no chance to become the PM. This would be Disadvantage Mamata. Chances are also that the SP would keep its options open. If a situation arises where Netaji — Mulayam Singh Yadav can muster sufficient support to stake claim for PM post, the SP would appreciate it most. It could even ditch Mayawati after the polls and join hands with either the other regional satraps, the BJP or the Congress. So is the case with Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, Naveen Patnaik of Orissa, K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana. 

All these, if PM Modi fails to stage a come-back after the LS polls. He remains as the most popular leader in the country as of now. The fancy budget might have added to his popularity graph.  Likely. 

The Congress central leadership is taking Mamata’s tantrums in Kolkata with a pinch of salt even as it is enthused at PM Modi and the BJP being put on the defensive. Notably, AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has not been very much enthused. The anti-Modi Shiv Sena, on the other hand, responded to the fight in Kolkata with considerable glee. Union minister Nitin Gadkari too might have enjoyed the fight in Kolkata. The minister with a loose tongue of late spoke no word on what’s up there. ==IHN-NN


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