Battle for UP: Congress leaders stay away from campaign

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As election activity begins to peak in Uttar Pradesh, senior Congress leaders are keeping away from the campaign and the party leaders have no explanation for their absence.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra remains the only star campaigner for her party and her ‘campaigning’ so far, has been limited to the virtual world.

Party president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh top the list of star campaigners but there is no information of their programme in UP polls.

“We do not know whether or not they will come for the elections in the state,” said a party leader.

Other Congress leaders including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan have campaigned and addressed press conferences for the party but leaders named as star campaigners like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Raj Babbar are conspicuous by their absence. Leaders like Digvijaya Singh, who are popular in UP, especially among Thakurs, have not been included in the star campaigner list.

A party functionary said that these leaders would be called when they were needed.

“Priyanka is the biggest star attraction and we actually do not need other leaders,” said the functionary.

Former UPCC presidents including Nirmal Khatri, Salman Khurshid and Raj Babbar have neither visited the UPCC office since Priyanka Gandhi took charge in 2019 and nor have they been invited by the state leadership for any event.

Raj Babbar was the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president in the 2017 assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Former Union ministers Jitin Prasada and R.P.N. Singh have left the alleging ‘lack of direction and leadership’.

The party’s “Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon” campaign has already taken a severe beating with its poster girl Priyanka Maurya alleging that she was asked to pay bribe for a ticket. She has now joined the BJP.

A number of Congress candidates have either returned their tickets or have resigned in the past few days.

The party’s door-to-door campaigns at grassroots are yet to pick up momentum apparently due to lack of manpower.

The Congress contested the 2017 assembly elections in alliance with the Samajwadi Party, fielding its candidates on 114 seats for the 403-member UP assembly. It won only seven seats, securing 6.25 per cent of the total votes and 22.09 per cent votes on seats contested.

Earlier in 2012, it had won 28 out of the 355 seats contested, securing 11.65 per cent of the total votes.

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