Tribune News Service
Lucknow, February 11
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has already set his sights on 2022 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Even as his party heads into general elections on its own in the state, Gandhi has made his intentions for the party's Uttar Pradesh unit clear—to revive the Congress in the state in time for the next assembly elections and to reclaim the party’s former glory in the country’s most populous state.
During the two brief addresses on Monday, one during the road show at Lalbagh and the other at the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters, he made it clear that although Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia—both recently made AICC general secretaries in charge of Uttar Pradesh—would work for Lok Sabha elections, their mandate was Congress’s revival in Uttar Pradesh in time for assembly elections 2022. Congress leaders RPN Singh, PL Punua, Pramod Tiwari, and Sanjay Singh will work toward this end, he said.
"It's a battle of ideologies, between one that breaks people up and another that binds them together," Gandhi said, referring to rivals Bharatiya Janata Party.
About the coalition between once arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, he said "There is a gathbandhan (coalition) in UP. We respect Mayawati ji and Akhilesh ji but will fight in UP with all our strength. Congress will fight on its front foot."
Gandhi invoked the Rafale deal controversy at both rallies, quoting a national daily report as saying that Prine Minister Narendra Modi had waived an anti-corruption clause in Rafale deal to help Anil Ambani “steal away” Rs 30,000 crore from the Indian Air Force.
He wondered what the Modi-government had done in its five-year term.
“Where are the promised 2 crore jobs for the youth? He has only written off the debts of his corporate friends and not the poor farmers. There is no dearth of issues (against the BJP-led central government). Different sections including youth, farmers, dalits, OBC, minority and the poor were feeling cheated by the false promises," he said, adding that the Prime Minister's language had changed over the years—from his confident “56 inch ki chaati" quote to now being defensive.
Throughout his 15-km roadshow, Gandhi was heard repeating his slogan “Chowkidar chor hai” (gatekeeper’s a thief)—a phrase he frequently uses for the prime minister—with the crowds repeating after him in sync “chor hai, chor hai”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called himself the country’s “chowkidar”.
The Congress leaders arrived at Lucknow airport on Monday to a rousing welcome.
Their roadshow began their Uttar Pradesh campaign amid chants of “Lahar nahi hai aandhi hai naam Priyanka Gandhi hai (She isn't a wave, she's a storm. She's Priyanka Gandhi)”.
Addressing crowds of supporters gathered at Lal Bagh, Gandhi said that his party would not rest until there was a Congress government in Uttar Pradesh in 2022. Among topics that found mention in the Congress president’s rally speech was the Rafale deal and allegations of crony capitalism involved. The Congress has been mounting attacks on the Bharatiya Janata Party government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the controversial deal.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s sister whose foray into active politics began with taking the party’s cudgels in eastern Uttar Pradesh, did not speak at the rally, neither did Scindia.
Priyanka Gandhi is in charge of Uttar Pradesh east, and Scindia will oversee Uttar Pradesh west.
General elections are due in April-May this year.