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After years of speculation over her entry into active politics, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been drafted into the All India Congress Committee as General Secretary today (Wednesday, Jan 23)

Starting with the same designation that was given to her elder brother Rahul when he first joined the party organization over 15 years ago, Priyanka, who is currently on a foreign visit, is likely to take over her new responsibility shortly after she returns to New Delhi on February 1.

She will be in charge of Uttar Pradesh (East), the bastion of BJP and its chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

The move, which many see as Congress pulling out its ace or ‘brahmastra’ ahead of the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is certain to enthuse Congress workers all over. She has so far confined herself to the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi, Amethi and Raebareli till now, the pocket boroughs of Gandhis.

Priyanka Gandhi, 47, who reminds many of her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi both for her charisma and the stunning likeness, would pose a more difficult challenge to  the BJP and its troll army given to personal attacks. Such tactics are more likely to backfire than work against her.

The BJP will need to dig out something more meaningful and powerful to counter her. It would need to realise that the usual harangue of ‘dynasty’ does not really wash with people. Besides, BJP also has its share of dynasts in the party.

Her husband Robert Vadra – the charges of corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan against him – are Priyanka Gandhi’s only ‘baggage’, but using it against her now, after Narendra Modi government failing to put him in jail all this time despite boasts of doing it within 100 days of assuming office, may also send out the wrong political message.

Her entry in politics may also lead to some realignment in the anti-BJP combine, especially in Uttar Pradesh where the SP-BSP alliance had so far given only a marginal role to Congress.

Priyanka Gandhi joining active politics when Rahul Gandhi has nearly been anointed the inheritor of Gandhi-Nehru family legacy does not have any element of a possibility of a family feud offering any opportunity to BJP.

Their shared leadership would be cause for worry to the BJP. While Rahul is honest and sincere, Priyanka is known to be personable and charismatic. While the brother is inquisitive and academic, the sister has an easy, natural connect with the masses and is an excellent public speaker.

As reported by India Legal back in August 2018, Priyanka’s entry into active politics was in the works. She had already been roped in by her brother to revive the Congress War Room – the party’s poll strategy office at 15, Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road – and monitor drafting of the vision document and manifesto for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

India Legal reported that that Priyanka has been interacting with various heads of AICC departments and frontal organizations for the past six months and discussing specific tasks for them to ensure a more active party organization at the grassroots. A team of party leaders – mix of old hands and those who have gained Rahul’s confidence recently – have been assisting Priyanka in the task. Key among these names are Sam Pitroda, Jairam Ramesh, Rajeev Gowda and former SBI director Deepak Amin. Priyanka had also been advising Rahul directly on issues that he should take up in his poll campaigns and also his interventions during debates in Parliament.

The aggressive stance that Rahul has been taking against Modi on a host of issues lately, both inside Parliament and at party events, while stressing that he may disagree with his political rivals but has “love” for them in his heart, is also the result of Priyanka’s counselling, said the India Legal report.

Giving Priyanka responsibility of party affairs in a state that accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats is significant, especially considering her specific charge of eastern UP – a stronghold of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

The SP and BSP both have their pockets of influence primarily in western and central UP and in the Bundelkhand region while the BJP largely holds sway in eastern districts of the state. Sources say that the Congress’s decision to not join the SP-BSP alliance was borne out of its calculated strategy to have Priyanka lead the campaign in eastern UP and consolidate support for the party in areas where the BJP is strong, reported India Legal.

The next step for Priyanka, always seen as the more politically astute sibling, is likely to be contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Rae Bareli, the seat currently held by her mother Sonia Gandhi, who may opt out of electoral politics citing her poor health.

Other changes in Congress

Apart from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul has also effected a minor reshuffle of the party organization, focusing largely on Uttar Pradesh.

With Congress general secretary in charge of the party organization, Ashok Gehlot being sworn in as chief minister of Rajasthan recently, Rahul has brought in his confidante KC Venugopal to take over the role. Besides serving as AICC general secretary (organization), Venugopal will continue to be in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka.

Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia who had lost out to Kamal Nath in the race for Madhya Pradesh chief minister recently has also been appointed AICC general secretary and been given charge of party affairs in Western UP with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who had been serving as AICC general secretary for Uttar Pradesh, has been divested of this role and given charge of Haryana.

It is pertinent to note that the decision to appoint general secretaries in charge of specific regions in UP instead of having one official looking after party affairs in the entire state was also a strategy suggested by Priyanka, reported India Legal. In the coming weeks, Rahul is also expected to announce at least two more general secretaries who will look after party affairs in others parts of UP.

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