By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Sep 15 (IANS) Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, has been meeting Congress workers and leaders from the state twice a week in the national capital for feedback on ways to strengthen the party in Uttar Pradesh. However, state party leaders have conveyed to her that she needs to be stationed in Lucknow for at least 20 days a month in order to revive the party, which is fast losing its relevance in a state where it held sway for years.
The Congress lost miserably in the Lok Sabha elections from Uttar Pradesh as it could manage to win just one out of 80 seats – the Rae Bareli seat represented by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Even former Congress President and Priyanka Gandhi’s brother Rahul Gandhi failed to keep the family pocket borough of Amethi, losing to Union Minister and BJP leader Smriti Irani.
Following the defeat in the elections, the party dissolved all the district committees in the state and formed a three-member disciplinary committee to look into anti-party activities during elections.
In one of the meetings held by Priyanka at Rahul Gandhi’s residence, she was conveyed by party leaders that she should spend at least 20 days in the state if she was really keen to revive the Congress. The party last ruled the state from 1980 to 1989.
A Congress leader, present in the meeting, wishing not to be named told IANS, “About 10 party leaders asked Priyankaji to spend 20 days a month in Lucknow to get the real picture of the situation at the ground level.”
“They told her that sitting in Delhi would not revive the party in UP,” he said.
The party leader also said that many leaders have offered their homes for Priyanka Gandhi’s stay while in Lucknow.
“Yes, we gave her the proposal that we will give our homes for her in Lucknow to carry out the party’s work,” a Congress leader, who offered his home to the party General Secretary told IANS.
Asked about Priyanka Gandhi’s response, the party leader said, “She just smiled at our proposal and said that she will let us know.”
Earlier, Priyanka Gandhi had announced plans to spend at least two days a week in the state and meet the leaders. However, she has yet to live up to that.
In January, after her appointment as the General Secretary, she held marathon meetings with party leaders and workers in Lucknow to take feedback on the candidates and the problems at the grassroots level.
In June this year, she formed a team of three secretaries — Zubair Khan, Bajirao Khade and Sachin Naik — to go to every parliamentary constituency and identify the reasons for the party’s loss in the state.
The team spent over two-three days in each parliamentary constituency and spoke to a number of party leaders and workers and gave their report to Priyanka Gandhi.
According to their report, the party was not visible at the block level in many districts and there was an urgent need to fix these issues ahead of the 2022 assembly polls if the Congress really wanted to come to power.
Following the report, all the district Congress committees were dissolved in early July this year.
The party leader said that Priyanka Gandhi has been looking to bring in young leaders into the party.
He also said that Priyanka Gandhi, on the basis of the report, is also set to form a new regional committee that would include social workers, student leaders and grassroots level workers who have not held a party post so far.
The average age of the new team would be 38-45 years and it will have a sizeable representation of Dalits, Other Backward Classes and women.
According to party leaders, women leaders are likely to be given the post of district vice presidents across the state. The new Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) will have just around 40 members, a tenth of the earlier PCC which had more than 400 members.
The number of state party secretaries will be accordingly reduced to around 12 from the earlier more than 50. There will be six general secretaries in the PCC, said the person.
The Congress has been losing vote share continuously in Uttar Pradesh. In 2012 assembly polls the party had won 28 seats, while in 2017 polls it could manage to win only seven seats. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress had won 21 seats in the state, which then shrunk to two seats in 2014 and one in 2019.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])