MEHRU JAFFER | 13 FEBRUARY, 2019
‘Just yesterday the Congress party was a sinking ship’
The positive reaction of Lucknow to the presence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the city, made one onlooker burst into poetry. Soaking in the excitement of large crowds with happy faces that had collected around the Mall Avenue premises of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Party, an eligible voter spouted Faiz Ahmad Faiz –
raat yun dil mein teri khoi hui yaad aayi
jaise virane mein chupke se bahar aa jaye
jaise seharon mein haule se chale baad-e-nasim
jaise bimar ko bevajah qarar aa jaye
– in Vikram Seth’s translation,
Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert moves the breeze,
As to a sick man without cause, comes peace.
47-year-old Priyanka brings happy memories of her grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi whose strength as a fearless politician is being terribly missed in Lucknow at a time when fear rules the city.
“Ever since the present government came to power it has instilled fear amongst citizens. The emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1973 seems like child’s play, in the face of the number of rapes and lynchings that take place routinely in the city. In this atmosphere of fear and the practice of the politics of hate, the arrival of a friendly, smiling Priyanka is most welcome,” Shahira Naim, a Lucknow based senior journalist told The Citizen.
The latest incident of bullying by authorities involves none other than former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was stopped the other day at Lucknow’s Amausi Airport and prevented from traveling to Allahabad to address students at the university there.
The reason for doing so is lame: the authorities of law and order did not want students to be distracted from their studies by visiting politicians like Akhilesh. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the Samajwadi Party had a history of lawlessness and his visit could have created law and order problems in Allahabad.
“Lucknow is capital of the largest state in India in terms of population and Lok Sabha seats. Priyanka’s maiden visit as a Congress office bearer, and the grand welcome that she has received in the city, mark a significant boost to the morale of the Congress Party, which seemed like a sinking ship just yesterday. Priyanka’s participation in active politics although belated should help the Congress wake up from its slumber,” said Syed Mohammad Haider, a leading Lucknow advocate.
Scholar Sanobar Fatma added that she grew up listening to her elders say that Priyanka is a reflection of Indira Gandhi.
“Witnessing the crowd in Lucknow I realized that she is way more charismatic than Rahul, who I had heard in college before the last election. However her charismatic presence could divide the Muslim votes between Congress and the SP-BSP alliance, and by default help the BJP gain more seats in the coming election,” Fatma said.
For that reason Naim would like to see a tacit understanding between the Congress, the SP and the BSP, if they really want the BJP defeated in the 2019 polls.
At a time like this Noor Zaheer, author and social activist is happy to see that at least someone is on the road.
“One had begun to believe that it was only the masses sweating it out under the sun,” said Zaheer, daughter of Syed Sajjad Zaheer, Communist Party of India leader, writer and founder of the revolutionary Progressive Writers’ Movement in Lucknow in 1936. Her hope now is that Priyanka will build up a strong feedback process and will address issues that are unpalatable but touch the core of the masses.
“A lot is happening and anyone thinking of making a dent has to have their eyes and ears open all the time,” Zaheer concluded.
Pradeep Kapoor, veteran writer and political analyst was happy to watch Congress grassroot workers wake up and welcome Priyanka with such enthusiasm. That kind of display of political consciousness is enough, he said for the moment. While Yasmin Zaidi, daughter of Ali Jawwad Zaidi, well known Urdu critic and author exclaimed that she is simply thrilled to see Priyanka play real politics at last.
Priyanka is visiting Lucknow till February 14 when she will meet party workers and local leaders, especially from eastern UP, to strategise about reviving the fortunes of the Congress Party in about 42 constituencies in the state, which the Congress governed since independence till about two and a half decades ago.
Priyanka arrived in Lucknow on February 11 to a thunderous reception, along with her brother and Congress President Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, responsible for 38 constituencies in western UP. The youth of the city took to the streets in full force to welcome the Congress leaders.
Elections are in the air and Priyanka is expected to help the Congress remerge as a political force in the state. After her meetings with party workers in Lucknow, she may tour eastern UP.
“The crowd that thronged the streets of Lucknow for Priyanka Gandhi's road show clearly indicates the excitement her entry has brought in the politics of Uttar Pradesh. As far as Muslim voters are concerned, the resurrection of the Congress gives them a choice in the elections and adds value to their vote. This triangular contest will ensure that Muslim votes are not taken for granted,” concluded Anas Tanweer, a young social activist and lawyer.