Priyanka Gandhi. Photograph: (AFP)
Clamour for Priyanka Gandhi to campaign in Raebareli has increased after incumbent CM Akhilesh Yadav campaigned for his party's candidate
Clamour for Priyanka Gandhi to campaign in Raebareli and in Amethi has increased as incumbent Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav seems to have broken mutual understanding between the Gandhi’s and Yadav’s in the family pocket borough. Akhilesh Yadav campaigned for Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Devendra Pratap Singh against the Congress candidate Ashok Singh in Sereni on Wednesday.
Sources in the Raebareli Congress say that it was because of a friendly fight in four constituencies that the contest was kept centred around workers only. But now with Akhilesh’s visit, the game has changed. A close aide of the Gandhi family, and also a Congress Secretary, Kishori Lal, admitted there is tremendous pressure from the candidates to organise rallies for Priyanka Gandhi. He also said that last time around they over-exposed her, which they will be careful not to do in the current elections. “It was an excess from our part. We don’t want Priyanka Gandhi to do an aggressive campaign in the constituency. She is our senior leader,” said Kishori Lal. But he remains hopeful that Priyanka would come to the constituency.
Congress sources confirmed to WION that a fresh proposal would be sent to Priyanka Gandhi by Wednesday night or Thursday morning to spare one or two days in Raebareli where campaiging ends on February 21. It would be proposed to Priyanka that she take five meetings consisting of booth committee members ranging between 3000-4000 people so that the message goes out that Congress has not given up seats like Sereni and Unchahar in Raebareli.
Congress is witnessing friendly fight with SP on two seats each in Raebareli and Amethi. In Unchhar, Congress candidate Ajay Pal Singh is pitched against SP candidate Mohit Pandey who wants Mulayum Singh Yadav to campaign in the constituency. In Amethi Amita Singh is fighting SP’s Gayatri Prajapati and Gauriganj is witnessing a contest between Mohd Naim and Rakesh Singh. “It is a mismanagement in part of SP and not us. They didn’t keep the promise,” says Congress Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh.
As per the schedule prepared by the local Congress unit, the Congress member of Parliament Raj Babbar and Pramod Tiwari will campaign in Raebareli on February 16. The Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s two rallies are scheduled on the 17th, four meetings of Raj Babbar and Pramod Tiwari again are fixed on the 18th, and five meetings have been fixed for the Leader of Opposition Gulam Nabi Azad on the 19th.
Sources say that February 20 and 21 have been reserved for Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but pointed out that the whole campaign schedule can change if Priyanka confirms the programme. Congress sources say that if the green signal comes then it would be scheduled after Rahul Gandhi’s visit, which is on February 17. It was also confirmed to WION by the local unit of Raebareli that till now it has also not received confirmation from the Congress President’s office. The campaign in Raebareli would end at 5 pm on the 21st.
Some candidates were candid about the way the alliance has worked out in the family bastion. “May be these discussions were held earlier and decisions taken later. But why these candidates have been put up, leadership understands it better,” said Amita Singh former MLA contesting against Gayatri Prajapati.
So for now, all eyes are on Priyanka Gandhi.