Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, by being the first big leader to take up the cause of the tribal victims in Sonbhadra district and getting detained for it, has effectively seized the issue, making Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati look like marginal players in UP politics.
The laid back attitude of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, even after the humiliating defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, has baffled political observers.
On the other hand Priyanka, who as Congress general secretary in-charge east UP, could not save Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi Lok Sabha seat, has taken up leadership in the Sonbhadra issue.
The SP, to be counted as ‘also ran’, did send a team of its low rung leaders who were also detained. Nobody, including the local people, took the notice of that effort and it was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who continued to occupy the top slot in the media.
The other big opposition leader of UP, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who is licking the wounds inflicted by the Income Tax Department by attaching Rs 400 crore worth benami property her brother in Noida, is as usual sitting on a high pedestal.
Barring the incidents of killing of Dalits in Fatehpur district of UP in 2001 and gang-rape in Badaun in May 2014, she has never taken the trouble of visiting the families of the victims.
She is not known to play agitational politics. What is Akhilesh Yadav’s excuse? Of course, he has given formal statements and the SP has forced a Rajya Sabha adjournment, but these efforts come across as mere formalities. The party does not seem to be eager to be seen actually fighting to seek justice for the victims of Sonbhadra.
A senior SP leader admitted: “We should have done what was done by Priyanka Gandhi.”
Incidentally, both Priyanka and Akhilesh Yadav took foreign holidays around the same time. When Akhilesh Yadav was abroad for 15 days, he didn’t put out a single tweet. Priyanka’s Twitter account remained active with tweets on Uttar Pradesh affairs in Hindi as if she was sitting in Lucknow.
“If you scan the media coverage of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the last six weeks, it appears that she is the tallest opposition leader of Uttar Pradesh,” said a leader of the Samajwadi Party.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, waiting for the opportunity to break the opposition ranks, added to the profile of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by detaining her and not letting her meet the families of the Sonbhadra victims.
She had recently written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, asking the UP government to reduce her security cover to prevent the inconveniences caused to the public. The BJP state unit was all too happy to share this letter with the media.
It is clear that the BJP is encouraging Priyanka’s forays into Uttar Pradesh to further divide the opposition. A four-cornered contest is all that the BJP needs for the by-election to 14 UP Assembly seats.