Nidhi Razdan: Priyanka Gandhi's impact: Boosting Congress' morale and reaching new heights Video Credit: Gulf News

On June 13, Priyanka Gandhi kicked off the Congress party’s Madhya Pradesh campaign, where elections are due later this year. It was a significant moment. After the Congress’ big successes in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh before that, this marked the start of a bigger pan India role for Priyanka.

Indeed, it also signals a shift in the party’s thinking which until now was centred only around Rahul Gandhi and a general belief that Sonia Gandhi did not want anything or anyone to overshadow her son. But things have changed. For one, Rahul Gandhi is a far more confident politician today, more comfortable in his own skin.

His Bharat Jodo Yatra (United India March) went a long way in resurrecting his political image and he has kept up the momentum generated from it. A recent opinion poll conducted by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that Rahul’s approval ratings shot up by 15 per cent after the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Read more

Connect with the masses

Over the last few months, Priyanka has slowly come out of the walls of Uttar Pradesh where she was confined as general secretary to emerge in a bigger role for the party.

Ever since she resigned from her UP post last October, Priyanka has now become more visible in other states and is even taking the lead in campaigns like in Himachal and now Madhya Pradesh.

In MP she announced five major promises and a puja ceremony. She performed on the Narmada that made headlines, drawing an attack from the BJP.

Within the Congress, the morale is currently upbeat and Priyanka’s role has made it more so. That is because she is seen as an aggressive campaigner, who takes the fight to Modi and Shah and has a more natural ability to connect with people.

She is also said to be more approachable within the party than even her brother whose blunt attitude has often put people off. The big USP with Priyanka is connecting with women voters, which is a crucial demographic that the BJP is also keenly wooing and so far largely succeeding with.

Priyanka Gandhi in an election rally in Madhya Pradesh

Winning over women voters

Priyanka tried it in UP where it didn’t work but women centric promises worked well in Karnataka where the guarantees of income support for women, free cylinders, and free public transport are believed to have played a big part in the Congress party’s big win.

This is the template that the party wants to replicate in the other states where elections are due in the next few months: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

For the Congress, Priyanka’s role and her handling of the party’s campaign after Rahul’s expulsion from Parliament has been a huge morale booster.

Will Priyanka contest the Lok Sabha polls?

She did not let the controversy hit the momentum of the campaign and pushed through. It has actually been a shift for her given her rather patchy record in UP and fleeting appearances. Now she’s more consistent.

Much of the Himachal win has been credited to her and her strategy of letting local leaders take calls and pitching for things like the old pension scheme that ended up becoming key talking points. The Congress says that in Karnataka, Priyanka had a strike rate of over 70 per cent in the areas in which she campaigned.

But the Congress also needs to be cautious. Every state will not be a Karnataka and as the last UP elections in 2022 showed, Priyanka Gandhi’s charisma has its limitations. She pushed for more seats for women in UP and a women centric campaign but the Congress secured only 2.37% votes as against the 6.25% in 2017, and won only two seats.

The big question now is what is the formal position Priyanka will hold. Will she contest the Lok Sabha polls? Will she get another senior party post and take charge of more states?

Nothing is being ruled out yet but for the Congress, her more active participation in the field has come as good news.