By Abhinav Pandey
Lucknow: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the focus on caste and religion in Uttar Pradesh politics has made politicians complacent, making them sideline the real issues.
Gandhi accepted that the Congress organisation had weakened in the state over the past few decades but the party has worked hard now to rebuild it and reconnect with the public.
On a question related to the dominance of caste and religion in Uttar Pradesh since 1989, Gandhi told PTI, It is correct that UP’s politics has become about caste and religion, but the fact is that this kind of politics has contributed nothing to the progress of the state. It has not only pushed the state back but has enabled the political class to become complacent.
The average politician of UP believes that he will get votes on the basis of religion and caste anyway so what need does he have to perform on other counts? He can sideline the real issues of the public with ease. This is a very unhealthy development in a democracy, she said.
It effectively means that development, governance and economics take a back seat as emotions linked to caste and religion drive politics, Gandhi said in written answers to questions sent to her.
We are the only party that has offered a well thought out plan for women, youth and indeed for every aspect of UP’s social and political upliftment and presented it in our manifestos. We believe that politicians must be held accountable for governance and development and are spreading this message across the state, she said.
Asked how strong the Congress cadre in Uttar Pradesh is as the party has not been in power for the last 33 years, Gandhi said, Our organisation in UP had been progressively weakened over the last few decades. For a number of elections due to alliances, we did not even put up candidates in as many as two to three hundred seats.
What I faced when I first came here was almost a complete erosion of our cadre although some old congressmen and women were still standing strong despite this, she added,
However, fielding candidates on 400 seats for the ongoing Uttar Pradesh elections will throw up new leadership and strengthen the Congress, she asserted.
We have worked very hard to rebuild our party. We changed the nature of the programmes so that they re-connected our cadres with the public and no longer remained party-centric alone. We trained over 100,000 workers and have built the organisation up to the Nyay panchayat and gram level across the state, she said.
Elaborating on the steps taken by her to rebuild the party, Gandhi said, We made sure that whenever the public faced problems in the last few years, our party workers were the first to respond and fight for their rights, yet we have a long way to go in terms of organisational strength on the ground.
Development is at the top of our political agenda. We are appealing to women and young people to replace the politics of caste and religion with a politics that responds to the needs of the public, she said.
On Congress’ allegations that the BJP is diverting from core development issues and focusing only on terrorism and mafias, she said, I see it as a great shame that people are facing such immense problems, they are unable to make ends meet, they are struggling on a daily basis and yet, this is what BJP leaders are spending their time doing.
What is polarisation after all? It is a blatant political tool that allows political parties to underperform on every front, she said.
The Congress leader also vowed to continue to fight for the rights of the people of Uttar Pradesh irrespective of the election results.
I will be right here working for the people of UP and fighting for them regardless of what the results in this election will be. I know my responsibility towards them and I feel it deeply in my heart, she said.
UP has so much potential, so much skill and capability and its people are being cheated of their dues over and over again. They truly deserve a politics that puts their needs and aspirations first. I will work very hard to make this possible, the Congress leader added.