New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi, who turned 41
today, faces challenging times ahead with Uttar Pradesh
Assembly polls not far away.
Gandhi has set his eyes on Uttar Pradesh where Assembly
polls are due in a year`s time to help his party capture power
in a state where he led revival of the organisation by
securing 22 of the 80 seats in Parliamentary elections in
After nearly four decades of virtually uninterrupted
rule, Congress is in political wilderness in the state since
1989 in the wake of the Mandal and the Mandir surge.
Gandhi is being projected by the party as the potential
prime minister and future leader with senior leaders like
Digvijay Singh noting that he has all the "qualities and
capabilities" that are needed for a "good" prime minister.
The year gone by was not good for Gandhi as Congress
fared poorly in Assembly polls in Bihar despite the young
leader virtually leading the campaign there. In Tamil Nadu
too, Congress turned a flop even though he campaigned and
also made a pitch for some young candidates.
In Kerala, his attack on V S Achutanandan may have turned
counterproductive with the CPI(M)-led Left Front almost
returning to power. The Congress-led UDF managed to secure
power by a wafer-thin majority.
The attack on Achuthanandan earned him a sobriquet of
"Amul Baby", which the Congress resented.
Digvijay Singh, who is in-charge of party affairs in UP,
insists that "Uttar Pradesh is not Bihar" as an organisation
is in place in UP unlike in Bihar where the party secured just
four out of the 243 seats.
Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh disagrees. He feels
that the battle in UP is between his party and the BSP.
National parties like Congress and BJP will have to play a
Seeking to retain power, Chief Minister Mayawati is
leaving no stone unturned to reach out to people and has
already announced her candidates for all the 403 Assembly
The 2007 elections in the state are considered a defining
moment in Indian politics with BSP led by Mayawati
singlehandedly securing majority. Congress had won just 20 odd
BJP has sought to revive the temple issue with party
president Nitin Gadkari talking of ushering "Ramrajya" in
Uttar Pradesh claiming that people are fed up with Mayawati`s
"goondraj" and Mulayam Singh Yadav`s "jungle raj".
BJP which ruled Uttar Pradesh 10 years back secured
the poor fourth position in the last Lok Sabha elections
behind the 22 seats each of Congress and the Samajwadi Party
and 16 of the BSP.
Detractors of Congress say that the road ahead is not
easy for Congress as four Assembly bypolls after the Lok Sabha
elections have seen the party biting dust.
Gandhi`s recent agitation at Bhatta Parsaul in Greater
Noida has stirred up things politically with Mayawati going
great guns to attack Congress.
The AICC has already declared that there is no question
of alliance with any major party like the SP and BSP and there
could be tieups with smaller parties.
A section of the Congress is feeling that the party
should join hands with the Samajwadi Party.
Party veterans like Vasant Sathe have only recently
underlined the need for Priyanka Vadra to become active in
politics and party chief Sonia Gandhi along with Priyanka and
Rahul embark on a mass contact programme.