Priyanka Gandhi
Priyanka Gandhi

Lucknow: What has really changed over the last 10 days in Uttar Pradesh following violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the third week of December?

Not much for the right-wing government-led by the monk chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Except that it's critics and opponents have shifted their focus from gangrape and murders to police atrocities on anti-CAA protesters.

Even the main opposition party of the state – Samajwadi Party (SP) – is out of limelight despite its large-scale participation in the protests except for the accusations of “inciting the riots” levelled by the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has anyway kept itself away from the demonstrations.

The real gainer of the anti-CAA movement in Uttar Pradesh is the Congress, observers say.

While the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati were missing from the ground though they were active on social media, the Congress with Priyanka at the helm managed to grab media headlines and public attention by using a mix of old and new tricks in the trade, say political analysts.

“The grand-old party hit the streets with Priyanka, she raises the voice of oppressors, clashes with the police, meeting the kin of the protesters who were killed or arrested, has launched all-out attack on the chief minister, and using social media as well with great planning,” admits a Samajwadi Party leader.

He adds that Priyanka has been focusing on UP since parliamentary elections in April-May and taking on the Yogi government aggressively on law and order and other issues. Her actions often compel Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati to do their bit.

The Director of Centre for Objective Research and Development, Lucknow, Athar Hussain, says, “As far as optics are concerned, Congress has surely left behind SP and BSP over the amended citizenship law. If daughter of a former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi takes to roads, rides scooter to meet commoner, she will be noticed. But the Congress barely has any political space in UP so it won't help the party much.”

The Congress had won just one seat out of 80 in the 2019 parliamentary elections, that too by its' working president Sonia Gandhi. Even Rahul Gandhi, the then party chief and Priyanka's elder brother lost Amethi seat, the family's bastion.

In UP Assembly, Congress is the fourth largest party with seven MLAs, much behind the SP (54) and BSP (19). It has been struggling for its revival in the state which was its stronghold three decades ago.

SK Dwivedi, Professor of politics at Lucknow University says, “Priyanka is a crowd-puller but that crowd hardly understands CAA or Congress' stand over it. She needs spend more time in UP especially in strengthening the organization so that Congress can give a good fight in the 2022 Assembly elections.”

Observers feel that with anti-CAA narrative, the Congress seeks to woo back its old support base-Muslims who constitute about 18 percent of the state population. The community had shifted its loyalty from Congress to SP after the demolition of Babri mosque in 1992.

“The mobilization of Muslims for the anti-CAA protests was not by any political party or Muslim leaders. It was the call of civil society members supported by some students' bodies. Priyanka seeks to occupy this very leadership space and the Muslim vote bank. She will succeed or not, only time will tell,” says Hussain.

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