Priyanka Chaturvedi’s entry enlivens poll scene, evokes sharp reactions

Mumbai: Even as the nation is in the midst of its biggest democratic exercise, the Congress received a shock on Friday, after its national spokesperson and convener Priyanka Chaturvedi quit the party and decided to become a saffron flag bearer by joining the Shiv Sena.

Her entry into the Sena will give the party a face it can project at the national level. But this move is also being viewed as one that may diminish the stature of the Sena’s existing spokespersons, Sanjay Raut and Manisha Kayande.

A source in the Congress claimed that Priyanka wanted to contest from the Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency. However, the ouster of the party’s Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam in March resulted in actor Urmila Matondkar being picked by party president Rahul Gandhi to contest from the Mumbai North constituency.

“A disappointed Priyanka had been waiting for an opportunity to quit the party. On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) had decided to reinstate some party leaders who had behaved in an unruly manner with Priyanka during a press conference in Mathura in 2015. This was the last straw for Priyanka,” said the Congress source.

Another source claimed Prashant Kishor, the political strategist, had scripted the entire episode. “It must certainly have been Kishor’s idea, to allow Priyanka entry into the Sena and project her as the Sena’s national spokesperson,” the source claimed.

Kishor had joined the Uddhav camp as an adviser before the LS polls and before the forging of an alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sena. Currently, the Sena has two spokespersons: Sanjay Raut, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha and Manisha Kayande, a professor. In view of Raut’s limitations in handling the English and Hindi media, Kayande had been roped in.

“Priyanka is a well-known face at the national level. She has a good command over Hindi and English, which will help the Sena at the national level,” claimed a Sainik. “Priyanka is not a leader, but a good spokesperson. Though her presence will not help the Sena expand its influence in the Hindi belt — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, she will be useful in putting out the party message at the national level,” claimed the Sena source.

Addressing a joint press conference with the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at Matoshree, Priyanka said, “I am a Mumbaikar. I have lived in Mumbai all my life and the Shiv Sena has always had a place in my heart since childhood. I have not forgotten the 26/11 terror attack. For me, it was distressing.”

She further said she wanted to do something better for Mumbaikars and for the safety of women, their empowerment and for the youth. “Shiv Sena is the perfect party for me. I will have to work under the leadership of Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray at the national level,” she added.

She denied having expressed a wish to contest from Mathura during this general election and this being the reason for her quitting the Congress. Meanwhile, Cong chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Every time a party member leaves, it’s a matter of pain for us.

People look for career progression. We wish all of them well, including Priyanka Chaturvedi. I must frankly and on record concede, yes, it’s a reflection on my leadership.”The BJP on Friday said there is “fear” among women after the Congress chose to side with its workers rather than a woman leader who was allegedly abused by them.

“Priyanka Chaturvedi had to leave the Congress after being abused by her own party workers. Instead of giving her protection, the (Congress) party protected its workers. This has created fear among women across the country seeing this face of the Congress,” BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari told reporters in Mumbai.

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