A buzz is growing strong that the Opposition bloc is planning to field veteran leaders such as Nitish Kumar, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Mallikarjun Kharge from Uttar Pradesh to make it a bigger battlefield of the country’s topmost leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi contests from the state’s Varanasi constituency.
Moreover, the bloc is focusing on the Phulpur constituency, where several leaders across party lines are indicating that Nitish Kumar or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can contest from. A Congress insider said, “Until recently, there were talks that Nitish Kumar could contest from Phulpur, but now there are talks that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could contest from the seat.”
Another Congress leader said, “The local leadership of the Congress has been asked to gather information on what seat could be the best for her. They have chosen Phulpur for her as she is at the top on the list of candidates there.”
A senior Congress leader from UP said, “A person who is a general secretary in-charge of a particular state cannot contest elections from that state, thereby Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will try to shift from Uttar Pradesh in organisational duties, which will make her eligible to contest the elections in the state.”
A political analyst in Uttar Pradesh said, “The seat is as such where there is Thakur vs Brahmin elections. If they field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, around 50% Brahmins there can come back to the Congress fold—that is how much impact it can have with this move.
Congress used to be the first choice of Brahmins before it started disappearing from Uttar Pradesh. These were their traditional voters. And there is not much polarisation in the eastern belt of UP like there is in the west. If Kumar contests, it is good for him as well as he has his own caste voters, Kurmis, on that seat. They are a lot in number there. Anupriya Patel is also from the same caste. But right now, there are no bigger Kurmi leader than Kumar. Plus, he seems to be a Prime Ministerial candidate.” Moreover, the party is also thinking to field Malikarjun Kharge from Uttar Pradesh’s reserved Lok Sabha constituency (SC) of Hathras or Bulandshahr. A Congress leader said, “The top leadership of the Congress is contemplating to field Kharge on one or the other seat. However, there is no confirmation about him contesting in the state.” It is also being said that an idea has been posited to Akhilesh Yadav that one seat in the state should be given to Mamata Banerjee as a symbol of unity. An SP leader said, “If she is offered the seat in UP, it will make an environment in favour of the Opposition camp. Other options are also being explored if other big leaders can also be offered seats from UP, so that the UP battle becomes bigger than ever and also becomes a place from which unity emanates.”