LUCKNOW: A day after Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra ran into former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav on a Lucknow-bound Vistara flight from Delhi, there seems to be little indication that Opposition would be united in the 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections.
It is interesting to note that Priyanka chose party loyalist PL Punia’s constituency, Barabanki to launch the party’s Pratigya Yatra.
A former civil servant, Punia was considered close to former SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and even BSP chief Mayawati during his administrative career but when he quit his service in 2007, he chose to join Congress even though he unsuccessfully contested the assembly polls held that year.
He had fielded his son Tanuj from Barabanki in 2019 Lok Sabha polls against Samajwadi Party’s Sagar Rawat and BJP’s Upendra Singh. Tanuj lost to Upendra.
On Friday, it was Tanuj who showed Priyanka around along with MP Pramod Tiwari’s daughter Mona, sending feelers to SP that there was no love lost between two parties.
UP deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya was quick to launch attack on both SP and Congress.
“In SP, BSP and Congress, only their families prosper, while in BJP rule, only development prospers. As far as Priyanka is concerned, she is just a political tourist who comes here for fun trips with a bevy of cars, poses for photographers and goes back” said Maurya.
Congress has been desperately hoping for the party’s revival under Priyanka leadership, considering it has been out of power in the state since 1989.
“Priyanka will be the face of the party in Uttar Pradesh,” said Pramod.
He though did not clarify if she will contest 2022 polls or they will ever consider a tie-up with SP again after 2017 campaign where two parties fought with a “UP ke ladke” theme that failed to click under Prashant Kishor’s IPAC. Priyanka was seen Interacting with farmers in Barabanki.
While speculations are rife on the selection of candidates, Punia senior told The New Indian,: “We will announce the candidates for Uttar Pradesh in next few days.”
In 2019 Lok Sabha, Congress had won just one seat in Rae Bareli with its president Sonia Gandhi as the candidate but faced humiliation when Rahul Gandhi lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani in Amethi.
Congress, which had faced a drubbing in 2017 assembly polls, also faced a big loss after its senior UP leader Jitin Prasad quit the party to join BJP.
Prasad, a former Union minister and The Doon School alumnus was later inducted as MLC and UP cabinet minister by CM Yogi Adityanath.
BSP which has dumped Congress in most states where it was in alliance since 2018 — Rajasthan or Karnataka — has so far maintained distance from both SP and Congress.
“Congress did nothing where it is in power to distribute scooties and smartphones in Punjab or Rajasthan. And here they are making false promises ahead of UP 2022 election. Who will trust this party ever” said Mayawati in a tweet ahead of Priyanka’s visit.