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Back to the front, she'll monitor development work in Rae Bareli

THE CONGRESS has finally played its ultimate trump card -- Priyanka Gandhi.

Bruised by the drubbing in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the Congress's ' first family' has decided to bring in the younger Nehru- Gandhi scion to revitalise the party in its pocket borough -- Rae Bareli.

It was a fait accompli. There was no one but Priyanka who could rein in and calm down the restless Congress workers. After a month of brainstorming both at the central and state levels, the party decided to fall back on the ' charismatic' Gandhi.

For a first, Priyanka will meet the workers and office bearers from Sonia Gandhi's constituency on every Wednesday in Delhi to sort out their day- to- day problems.

There will be meetings and followup meetings.

Sources confirmed that Priyanka will monitor the developmental and political work in Rae Bareli. She will also take care of all the paper trails -- from the home bastion to central ministries -- and in case of inadequate response from the ministers, it will be her office phone that would crank into action.

In a nutshell, Priyanka will be the boss and she will ensure that all the work is being carried out properly and the workers are satisfied with their leader's initiatives.

Party sources said there is a strong possibility that Priyanka would contest parliamentary elections from Rae Bareli in 2014.

The Congress president, who had recently undergone a surgery, may like to constrict her campaigning in future elections.

Priyanka's introduction into party affairs is not without significance. It was she who stood behind her mother when the Congress was in the Opposition from 1999 to 2004 and actively took care of the family bastions ( Rae Bareli and Amethi).

After Rahul Gandhi entered full- time politics in 2004, Priyanka began to limit her role to the election months and last minute campaigns. Even then she did a remarkable job by drawing crowds in droves to her rallies. Her political acumen has impressed even her critics.

In March this year, during one of her rallies on the eve of the UP polls, some people made a veiled attack on Priyanka for her infrequent visits to the Congress's pocket boroughs. She brought a smile to their faces by calling herself a barsati maindak ( a frog that comes out only in the rainy season).

" I am the barsati maindak , not Rahul Gandhi. Everyone knows I come ( to Rae Bareli and Amethi) to coordinate elections.

There is nothing to hide in this," she said, scotching speculation that she would join fulltime politics.

But the assembly election results showed that mere road shows on the eve of the polls won't do anymore. The results came as a big disappointment for the party which won only two seats from Amethi ( represented by Rahul Gandhi) and drew a blank in Rae Bareli.

Sources informed MAIL TODAY that the party workers complained that there has to be a way of keeping in touch with the Gandhis as the matter was getting complicated because of Sonia's illness and her increasing pre- occupation with the state of affairs in Delhi.

The young general secretary, Rahul Gandhi, conducted a number of meetings on this issue. It was brought to his notice that despite consistent letters of work from Rae Bareli and Amethi offices, issues of party workers were being ignored by the central ministers.

According to a source, more than 7,000 letters were sent to the central ministers between 2004 and 2012 from Rae Bareli and Amethi offices and only 300 odd applications were said to have been worked upon.

Workers also complained that during late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's tenure, letters from his constituency ( Amethi) got priority from the high and mighty of the Congress party.

Rahul, on his part, took steps to bring things in order. Local appointees were issued strict warning to either ' perform or perish'. New workers were appointed in Amethi to take care of the developmental work.

But that did not seem enough to revive the morale of the party workers.

Finally, the Congress decided to bring 40- year- old Priyanka to the fore to reinforce the party's hold over Amethi and Rae Bareli.

Workers admit that there is a difference in the way of functioning of the siblings. Priyanka remembers people's names, is quick to respond and is a sharp trouble shooter.

Party sources admit that though Priyanka's work would be limited to Rae Bareli, it is an indication that the family cannot do without her.

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections are barely one- and- a- half years away. The Congress would like to benefit from Priyanka's political acumen the way it did in the 2009 general elections when she single- handedly took on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

The BJP leader had called the Congress a 100- year- old party, to which Priyanka replied: " Do I look old to you." The debate ended in the Congress's favour.

A more intense electoral involvement by Priyanka is expected to boost the confidence of the demoralised party cadre in Uttar Pradesh. The party had notched an unexpected 22 parliamentary seats from the state in 2009. Going by the current assembly tally of 28 seats, it would be a tall order for the party to repeat the 2009 performance.

With inputs from Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow

She has always drawn crowds to her rallies.

Her political acumen has impressed even her critics


THE Congress's move to rope in Priyanka Gandhi to connect with the people of Rae Bareli has reminded several party leaders of the way former PM Indira Gandhi governed her constituency. Ram Sewak Chaudhary ( 65), a veteran Congress leader, who has been active in Rae Bareli and Amethi since 1969, said: " The Congress had no choice but to return to the basics. Indira used to meet people of these constituencies at her New Delhi residence every day."

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 5, 2012

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