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Jan 25th, 2019 8:30 pm | By | Category: SPECIAL NEWS COVERAGE

(By Bhagyashree Pande)
Priyanka Gandhi has been assigned the role of reviving the fortunes of the Congress Party in Eastern UP something that has been done to counter Modi for 2019. The Congress has long been comatose in UP and after the rise of SP- BSP in the 80s the party had become irrelevant in the region. The move to launch Priyanka Gandhi by the Grand Old party was not just long awaited but it is significant too.

Can this move really change the shape of politics in India in times to come? Before deliberating the larger question one needs to understand the micro picture of the region that she has been launched in and also what really are the challenges ahead of her and the role that she can play. Eastern UP is a region of sharp contrasts on one hand is big cities of Varanasi, Allahabad (Nehru family hometown) as also Gandhi pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareily. But the rest of the region is backward, poorly developed, has a mix of local mafia, Thakur led Sena’s as also maoists. This rich agriculture region is dominated by SC ST OBCs but the land owning class is the mainly Thakurs. Since the British days the SC ST OBCs were involved in skinning, tanning etc but over a period of time they have shunned that occupation to be involved in agriculture. It was in the 70’s with the rise of leader like BSP Supremo Kansi Ram that these castes saw a new hope and moved away from the Congress. Today most backwards of the region are educated and have immigrated to bigger cities for employment politically it remains a BSP stronghold. One also has to consider another important historical nugget of the region, it was in the mid 70’s that this region including areas adjacent to Bihar that saw major upper caste violence on dalits and backwards. After the rout of Congress by Janta party Indira Gandhi had travelled on an elephant to reach Belchi (in Bihar though ) to acquiant herself with the situation of upper caste violence. Today the region is dominated by various Thakur led Sena’s who control the law and order by controlling the dalits. Then there is also the dominance and rise of UP CM’s own Sena the Hindu Yuva Vahini from Gorakhpur .Besides dominating the region these Sena’s run the illicit liquor mafia that supplies Indian and foreign liquor to outfits bordering Bihar where liquor is banned. In Southern parts of East UP Maoists writ runs in the forests as also the liquor mafia and smuggling of ammunitions and guns from govt armament factories. The Northern parts of East UP are not just backward but are malaria and encephalitis infested because of occasional floods when Nepal releases its excess water during monsoons. In short ,basic indicators of making human life better like hospital, schools, roads, 24 hours electricity barely exist.

Given this backdrop what difference can a new leader like Priyanka Gandhi make ? If Gandhi is to emerge as a strong leader from the region she has many opportunities the first being the loosening grip of Mayawati on the region. It is heard that she is fast emerging as the strategist of the party then, what will be her strategy besides attracting the upper caste votebank be ? It is a known fact that votebank politics is going stale with the education of backwards and dalits the demand is for better life , more opportunities and fast paced development .Priyanka Gandhi is not just a woman she is also an educated mother this brings a deeper understanding of basic human health and amenities that are needed to make life better. The provision of health facilities, education are human requirements that are well within her purview to demand from the state administration. This area being backward has immigration taken place in large numbers to big cities. Given the dominance of the Sena’s the safety of women, children and the elderly is of major concern . Can Priyanka Gandhi make sure that through her workers law and order of police rather than of Sena’s is restored in the area ?

Besides this how will Priyanka Gandhi ensure that the govt schemes that have been in existence since Indira Gandhi days are actually reaching the poor ? Even though the names of the schemes are changed it is seen that people vote for the party that implements it in greater earnest. Can Priyanka Gandhi make sure that schemes like Awas yojana, education for all, pulse polio and eradicate malaria mission, MNREGA are reaching the majority and not just on paper ? It is expected that PM Modi is soon going to announce a kind of Universal Basic Income for farmers .In this region where the backwards are mere tenants and the land is controlled by rich Thakurs how can such a scheme really reach the poor? Gandhi will have to use her imagination to win over those voters who are not happy with Mayawati, those who are oppressed because of Thakur ruling the state with his gun totting Vahini and Sena’s, upper caste voters who are with the BJP but do not have land or any prospects in the region,those upper castes who have doubts about being included in 10% EWS quota recently announced. Priyanka Gandhi will have to not just boost workers morale but she will have to build an organisation in the area which at one time was a stronghold of Nehrus. Besides what she does for the region will also have an impact on Western UP voters adjacent areas of MP Jharkhand and Bihar(where Congress is very weak). She starts on a clean slate has certain personal advantages besides that of a party machinery and a family name now its time to see how she builds on these strengths to become a leader who delivers for the region only then can she earn a larger role in the party at the Central level. From now on she will be judged by her action on whether she is just a privileged dynast or a new welfarist politician who can give Indian politics a new meaning . It is time to see if 2019 marks the arrival of a new politician in India.

(Article By Bhagyashree Pande)

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