Too early to assess the impact on Uttar Pradesh electorate

Grand Old Party (GOP), Congress is going gaga. Formal entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with battle gear as party general secretary and ‘jugal bandi’ with elder sibling Rahul Gandhi is expected to electrify the Congress campaign in politically key state, Uttar Pradesh.

Priyanka’s entry with a designation may have just been a formality. She’s not new to highs and lows of electoral politics after assassination of her father Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu.

Old timers clearly remember Priyanka standing like a rock even in grief taking charge of Rajiv’s funeral, handling worldwide dignitaries that descended on the capital to pay homage and running the household. Though, she kept away from taking a position in the party, Priyanka not only campaigned on behalf of Sonia and Rahul in Rae Bareli as well as Amethi Lok Sabha respectively but also nourished the family strongholds.

Most interesting is the timing of her formal entry into electoral hurly burly. At a time when Congress has virtually been left out of Samajwadi party – Bahujan Samajwadi Party alliance and chips hit the rock bottom, Priyanka will take on the challenge in crucial Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam Singh Yadav – Akhilesh Yadav duo’s home borrow, Etawah also falls in the Eastern region where Priyanka may have to take on the Yadav clan. Rahul Gandhi’s announcement that Congress and its allies would contest all 80 seats aggressively against both ruling BJP and SP – BSP lays the foundation for a three-cornered contest. This may give unintended advantage to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) given a possible vertical split in opposition vote bank. Even with Priyanka Gandhi as Congress mascot, division in muslim votes may not augur well for opposition parties in the midst of stitching a ‘grand alliance’ to deny Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term.

Priyanka’s appeal may work with Brahmin vote bank in the state that drifted away from the Congress over years. Their disillusionment with saffronites even after announcement of 10 percent reservations for economically backward sections could provide fillip to Priyanka’s campaign. Some do believe that it’s too late in the day for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to take the political baton and get running. During 2014 – 16, political strategists even saw her as a potential candidate for chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh. Though there’s unanimity on her making a big splash in the media, enthuse Congress workers at grassroots, it may be too early in the day to assess on the impact she will make on outcomes.

As elections get nearer, in case SP – BSP and Congress forge an agreement on “friendly fight” or retire some of their candidates to consolidate anti-BJP vote, Prime Minister Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath juggernaut may face hurdles. Given that Prime Minister Modi also contests from Varanasi, an informal alliance of SP – BSP – Congress along with splinter groups could spell trouble for the right wing, NDA.

Biggest uncertainty in the political calculus would be how the ‘Ram Mandir’ issue shapes up given that Sangh parivar has closed ranks and begun to mobilize the ‘Hindus’.

In case, the Hindu vote consolidation happens and Supreme Court allows for early resolution, this would go to advantage of BJP. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) rallying behind Modi – Yogi Adityanath would come handy for the saffron alliance and a significant factor in Uttar Pradesh.

In next three months, several other factors are likely to kick in. For instance, if SP and BSP were to succeed in rallying Muslims – other backward classes solidly behind the alliance, then the outcomes are bound to enthuse the regional parties and not the Congress per se.