New Delhi: The Congress is banking on the big-ticket promises being made by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, with the party General Secretary focusing on the women voters in the state.
On Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi released a manifesto for women titled ‘Shakti Vidhan’, which it thinks could be a game-changer for the party in the elections to the 403-member UP Assembly.
Priyanka Gandhi has promised that if voted to power, the Congress will allot 40 per cent of the 20 lakh new jobs it aims to create in the state to women.
Also, businesses raising their female headcount to 50 per cent will be provided incentives, including tax exemptions.
The manifesto also promises 25 per cent reservation for women in the state police force, while each police station will have at least one woman officer and constable. A law will be made for the suspension of officers, if Section 4 of Atrocities Act is not followed within 10 days of receiving any complaint for offenses like rape.
Apart from these, every girl studying in 10+2 will get a smartphone, while girls enrolled in undergraduate programmes will get a Scooty.
As per the manifesto, women will travel free of cost in state-run buses, besides receiving three free gas cylinders every year.
These are among the many promises made in ‘Shakti Vidhan’.
But the Congress has its task cut out in Uttar Pradesh, as the main fight here is between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also in the fray. The Congress had managed just seven seats in the last Assembly elections in 2017.
Unlike last time, there has been no concrete talk of Congress entering into any alliance yet. However, on Thursday, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met Priyanka Gandhi in the national capital and said that his party might form an alliance with the Congress for the next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Goa.
Some may look at this possible alliance as Congress’ attempt to gain credibility among the Hindutva voters.
Of late, Priyanka Gandhi herself has been frequently spotted visiting temples. She also chanted ‘Durga Stuti’ before beginning her speech at a rally in Varanasi recently.
In November, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had made a remark that if the BJP forms the government in the state, all opposition leaders would be seen rendering ‘kar seva’ outside temples.
Responding to that, Priyanka Gandhi said on Thursday, “Does Yogi ji know which temple I go to? I have been keeping a fast since the age of 14. I do not need certificates from anybody on my religion or faith.”
The Congress is trying to question SP chief Akhilesh Yadav over his role during the CAA-NRC agitation, with Priyanka Gandhi asking at a recent rally in Moradabad, “Where was the leader of the Samajwadi Party when the CAA agitation was going on?”
The party has also roped in Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel as the AICC senior observer for the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, and is banking on his OBC credentials.
Congress leader and MLC Deepak Singh said, “Congress has three Chief Ministers — Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi is from the Dalit community, while Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Baghel belong to the OBC. So it is the Congress, and not the BJP, which wants to empower the downtrodden.”
While the Congress is trying hard, political experts feel that it might have created a buzz that will show real results in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.