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Congress plays ‘age card’ on BJP, dares SP-BSP alliance

In other words, the contrast couldn’t have been starker now when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s generation of political leaders, many of whom are in his Cabinet, will look comparatively older.

, ET Bureau|
Jan 24, 2019, 10.03 AM IST
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Unlike Rahul, who started as incharge for Youth Congress, Priyanka has begun by taking direct charge of a part of the biggest electoral state in the country.
It’s tempting to view Priyanka Gandhi’s official entry into politics as an election-year manoeuvre. But it’s not just that. This is the Congress leadership repositioning itself on the national political scene at a time when the momentum is somewhat in its favour with electoral victories in three heartland states.

The Congress has clearly assessed that this is the right time to play the ‘age card’ on the BJP, positioning Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, among others, against a much older BJP brass, particularly in the government.

In other words, the contrast couldn’t have been starker now when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s generation of political leaders, many of whom are in his Cabinet, will look comparatively older.

The more important point is that Priyanka is now anchored in the party structure with a chance to evolve as a politician over the next few years, by when the current BJP leadership would have further aged. The Congress will hope that the Rahul-Priyanka duo will by then emerge as the ‘natural alternative’ for voters in the 18-35 age bracket.

So, the play is essentially on an impending generational shift in Indian politics, which has little or nothing to do with the outcome of the general elections.

Then, will the results not matter at all? They surely will. And, in fact, would be analysed very closely to judge Priyanka’s performance, but they are unlikely to determine her political future. It will be seen as part of the learning curve. And let’s not forget the Congress has a low baseline in UP, with just the two seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi.

Even in UP, this is clearly a long-term move. The call that the Congress leadership has taken cannot be seen as giving up UP to regional parties, even if it adversely affects the larger fight against the BJP.

How much space can the Congress concede? This was always the key question. And having been left out of all relevant alliances, the Congress seems to have now drawn the line, which is that not only will it fight in UP, but it will also put its best foot forward.

An improved Congress show may have negative consequences on the SP-BSP alliance depending on how the vote splits, but that’s the risk the Congress is willing to take. The counter is that for the Congress to do well, it will first have to dent the upper caste vote of the BJP.

Unlike Rahul, who started as incharge for Youth Congress, Priyanka has begun by taking direct charge of a part of the biggest electoral state in the country.

This would mean an opportunity to begin on a clean slate in an area where the party has been all but decimated. In many ways, it’s a ‘build’ phase of a revamp exercise, where even incremental gains will count.

In other words, this is a significant move for the long haul, a political launch of another member of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, not a rescue act ahead of the general elections.
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