Lucknow: What the Congress could not do during the Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka Gandhi has done now — she has pitted herself against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the Sonebhadra carnage issue.
With the Congress now ready to throw its weight behind Priyanka, Uttar Pradesh is set for a ‘Priyanka versus Yogi’ battle which is likely to continue much after the Sonebhadra incident is forgotten.
Priyanka was one of the first opposition leaders to express her dismay at the killing of 10 persons in Sonebhadra over a land dispute on Wednesday through a tweet that said, “Criminals are so fearless that they have killed 9 tribals including three women. The Chief Minister is sleeping. Is this the crime-free Uttar Pradesh?”
Priyanka’s decision to go to Sonebhadra on Friday — within 48 hours of the incident — is a clear indication that she is ready to battle for her party’s revival in the state and will not let the leadership crisis in the Congress make her wait and watch like others.
The Congress is the first party that reached out to Sonebhadra victims while the Samajwadi Party followed a few hours later.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have not gone beyond issuing press statements, condemning the incident.
Yogi Adityanath has, perhaps, sensed trouble that could emerge with Priyanka’s political activism and that too at a time when Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are only two-and-a-half years away.
The Chief Minister on Friday blamed the Congress for the land dispute that led to the carnage. His contention was that since the dispute began way back in 1955 when the Congress was in power, the party was to blame for what happened on Wednesday.
Adityanath, however, seemed ill-advised when he ordered the detention of Priyanka even though she had agreed to go to Sonebhadra with only four persons, without violating the prohibitory orders in the affected district.
Priyanka’s detention in the Chunar Guest House instantly mobilised Congress workers across the state as she refused to return without meeting the Sonebhadra victims.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “The illegal arrest of Priyanka in Sonebhadra, UP, is disturbing. This arbitrary application of power, to prevent her from meeting families of the 10 Adivasi farmers brutally gunned down for refusing to vacate their own land, reveals the BJP Govt’s increasing insecurity in UP.”
Protests were reported from Ballia, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Kanpur, Kannauj, Sitapur, Lucknow, Allahabad and several other districts where Congress workers staged demonstrations and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Adityanath. Almost all of these protests were spontaneous and leaderless to an extent.
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has also given a call for demonstrations and protests across the country.
A veteran Congress leader, now into semi-retirement, said, “It is after decades that we are seeing this kind of reaction and outburst from Congress workers. When the late Indira Gandhi was arrested after the Emergency, Congress workers had spilled on to the streets. I see this as the first step towards the party’s revival because Priyanka is not the one to give up this battle so easily.”
The battle, political analysts say, is bound to be long drawn since the prevailing law and order situation in the state will give innumerable opportunities to the Congress to position itself as the main opposition party and the direct involvement of Priyanka at the grassroots level could be a game changer for the Congress.