Priyanka’s political career and personal reputation are at stake in the hill state.
AJIPriyanka Gandhi Vadra’s prestige is at stake in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh. If the Congress fails to achieve success in the hill state, it would take a toll on the reputation of Vadra, whose political career is already in a shambles. Her calibre would be questioned, though she would continue to be a power centre by virtue of being a member of the Gandhi family. Like UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra devoted a lot of time and energy in campaigning in Himachal Pradesh. In fact, she had also campaigned massively in Uttarakhand and Punjab, but to no avail.
The Congress campaigned with a changed strategy in Himachal. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the party did not target Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly. The party targeted only local issues and decisions of the state government. Former party president Rahul Gandhi stayed away from the campaign. His Bharat Jodo Yatra did impact the elections. In the beginning, the Congress leaders looked more interested in the Yatra than in campaigning. The party workers and leaders were visibly disappointed as Himachal in-charge Rajiv Shukla was inaccessible for the workers. Somehow, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s presence boosted the morale of workers who then started taking more interest in electioneering. Congress chief Mallikarjuna Kharge also visited the state for a couple of days. But Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was the only crowd-puller. Congress leaders were talking about change in Himachal Pradesh on the lines of their campaign in Uttarakhand. The campaign was based on two theories. One, Himachal witnesses a change of regime after every five years. Two, there is a “strong anti-incumbency” against the government in the hill state. On the basis of these theories, Congress is claiming that it will get 40 seats, which will be five more than the majority number. Himachal Assembly’s total strength is 68. If Congress gets what it is claiming, then it will be like oxygen to both the party and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. It could be a morale booster for Congress which is facing a series of electoral defeats since 2019.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has also been unsuccessful in her mission so far, will also gain strength and confidence. Her experiments in UP and Punjab turned out to be counterproductive. Her insistence on giving chances to new faces harmed the party. She insisted on Navjot Singh Sidhu for Punjab leadership. Similarly, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sidelined leaders like Jitin Prasad, R.P.N. Singh, Raj Babbar and Pramod Tiwari, and picked a face which was hardly known to anyone in UP. So, Congress is finished in UP. The party is facing the same situation in Punjab as well. A dismal performance in Himachal would add to its woes. The report after voting in Himachal is not any good for Congress. Some might see a keen contest between Congress and BJP. But the saffron party has the potential to influence voters in some key seats in the last few minutes. Observers believe that Himachal may see a repeat of Uttarakhand where there was a last minute turn-around in 8-10 seats due to the charisma of PM Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditynanath. In this case, BJP may create history in Himachal Pradesh.