Congress' call for women empowerment in UP: Modi rushes to follow Priyanka Gandhi
Any other politician would have been unhappy that her biggest rival is trying to hog limelight by stealing her idea, but not Priyanka Gandhi who has made a mark by her distinct campaigning style
After the Congress manifesto for women and launching of slogan 'Ladki Hun Lad Sakti Hun', prime minister Modi has rushed to Prayagraj to interact with women of the state and release funds to Self Help Groups (SHGs) with a target of benefitting around 16 lakh women members.
Any other politician would have been peeved that her biggest political rival is trying to hog the limelight by stealing her idea. But not Priyanka Gandhi.
The Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in charge of Uttar Pradesh has made a mark by her unconventional style of electoral campaigning, ever since she entered active politics in January 2019.
If it was a unique 'boat Yatra' last time, this year she has started focusing on women empowerment by launching a Shakti Vidhan or manifesto for women for the first time in India.
Her promise of 40 per cent tickets to women and Mahila Samvad all over Uttar Pradesh seems to have unnerved the BJP so much that the Prime Minister is scheduled to address a women's rally in a day or two.
But unlike any other politician who would have accused Modi of stealing her idea, Priyanka Gandhi has gone on record as saying, "For the first time in his life Modi ji would be able to look someone in the eye and say that he was going to work for women's welfare. That’s a very positive development whether the initiative came from me or from someone else. It's very good for the empowerment of women."
She has also said that her focus on women had forced the Yogi government to increase the salary of Aanganwadi workers for the first time in five years even though it is a very paltry one and is just symbolic.
Her interaction with the people and even media this time around is brimming with a new confidence that's refreshing and endearing.
Unlike any other politician, in the videos of Priyanka Gandhi's campaign, she can be heard telling people that they should show politicians their place who do not fulfil their duty when elected.
In one election rally in Tilori in Amethi, her amazing rapport with the voters takes one's breath away.
She straightaway apologises for being late because her helicopter did not reach on time! And when she says she will not make a long speech someone from the audience shouts, "Kyon". She immediately tells the fellow "Kyonki mujhe aage bhi jana hai." And then with a twinkle in her eyes she admits," I am tired of making the same speeches 20 times a day."
That's the distinct, honest, open and confident style of Priyanka Gandhi which at once strikes a chord with the masses.
Priyanka Gandhi has shown remarkable courage and confidence in the last two years, visiting homes of victims of state violence in Uttar Pradesh be it Lakhimpur Kheri or Bijnor, or Muzaffarnagar. She was refused permission to meet them by the Yogi government initially for some strange reason and even detained in Sitapur Guest House where the lights went out in the night but the authorities had to relent ultimately to her perseverance.
Unlike other politicians, Priyanka Gandhi also does not hesitate in admitting mistakes publicly as she did recently on her visit to Amethi.
Speaking to the people there with her brother Rahul Gandhi (who had lost the Lok Sabha seat to Smriti Irani in 2019) present on stage, she told the voters, "Yes, we admit we have made some mistakes but we are going to rectify those. But we will never abandon you because you have given love and support to our family since I was 13 when I used to visit this place with my father Rajiv Gandhi."
Whether she is in Moradabad, Rae Bareilly or Amethi, she sounds more like an activist than a politician seeking votes for her party.
Her tone in most of these rallies is spiced with sentences like, "You know we are standing on this stage because of you. Actually, you should be standing here and we should be down there in your place."
And then she surprises every poll analyst when she says, "You know all of us standing here on this stage are very well-off. Our children are going to good schools, our health is taken care of but we are here because of you. Why should you tolerate leaders who don't work for you and for how long."
Leaving the spot for her next meeting she extracts a promise that they would vote the local Congress candidate who had lost twice.
Some of them shout they would do it for Rahul Gandhi, she says, "No, not for Rahul Gandhi, not even for the Congress candidate, you must vote for the Congress for the future of your children."
After her two years of hard work in Uttar Pradesh which has impressed hardcore journalists in Lucknow and Kanpur, this writer talked to one who admitted that he had never seen any Congress leader work so hard in his life. Priyanka Gandhi is obviously becoming aggressive in her interaction with the media.
When a reporter from a TV channel asked her, "You are trying very hard to revive the Congress in UP" she confronted him, "Why do you say "trying" to me. When others are campaigning, you say they are working very hard and I am trying. Tell me which opposition party had 18,000 workers arrested and sent to jail in the last one and a half years? They are all Congress workers".
Talking about the recent visit of Prime Minister to Varanasi she said, "All his programmes are like filmi sets. He is seen reciting shlokas but everyone can see the teleprompters where he reads and recites the shlokas from. It's the same with all his visits."
The Congress this time has taken a lead by releasing a manifesto for women at the initiative of Priyanka Gandhi and she has promised 40 per cent tickets to women in the next year's election.
Her slogan of 'Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon' is also becoming a battle cry all over the state and in other states going to polls in 2022.
However, as mentioned above, Priyanka Gandhi is not concerned that other parties could hijack her initiative in the coming elections.
Actually at the press conference to launch the women's manifesto she had said that she knew that other parties would also try to copy her but "That is what I want. I want every party to fix a quota for tickets for women because they are the Adhi Abadi (half of the population)."
It is this sentiment that makes her special and different from usual politicians. Whether this approach translates into votes is for astrologers and political pundits to decide but it does make her 'different' and her initiatives are definitely going to make a mark on Indian politics.
Views are personal