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Last Ditch

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In a last ditch effort to avert political irrelevance in UP, Rahul Gandhi has given a formal role in the Congress to sister Priyanka. She has campaigned many times before, but mostly in the family boroughs of Rae Bareli and Amethi. It is being hoped, now, that the added glamour quotient would change the party’s fortunes in Eastern UP, which still responds more to feudal sentiments.
Unfortunately, in the context of the SP-BSP combine, which has basically brought the Congress to its present sorry state, Priyanka will matter little. Her presence may impact on the BJP’s votes and actually boost the SP-BSP’s chances in the tighter contests. In the larger picture, the Congress is bound to end up a sorry fourth – a fact the voters will certainly take into consideration.
Despite what is being sought to be projected, this move is not a proactive measure, but an attempt to put a positive spin on a desperate necessity. It mostly has to do with the planned Smriti Irani-led assault on the family bastions by the BJP. In fact, it could lead to Irani being given a larger role in the campaign. This is because, while Priyanka made a positive impact as the shy recluse ‘forced’ reluctantly to come out in aid of her mother and brother, she will now be seen as yet another politician expected to hold her own in the cut and thrust of campaign rhetoric. In this, she would be at a clear disadvantage against the deft Irani. The more she is exposed to the harsh public glare, the more her abilities – or lack of them – will become known. Observers’ opinions and voters’ verdicts will be shorn of the sympathy factor.
The Congress is banking on the feudal mindset of people particularly in the rural areas, but the caste and community element will be stronger because of the polarised alternatives. The election might actually lead to clarity on these aspects of Indian elections, with choices being made more on the basis of self-interest than vague notions of historic obligations. Whatever the outcome, on these issues, at least, democracy will have made necessary progress.