NEWLY APPOINTED AICC general secretary and the party's Uttar Pradesh in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad Wednesday pitched for an expansion in Priyanka Gandhi's role as a campaigner and contended that she can help the Congress revive itself in the state.
Azad, who has already announced that the Congress will have a chief ministerial candidate before the state goes to Assembly polls next summer, also said that the party is unlikely to introduce a "new and fresh face" for that role.
"I don't know whether in six months you can throw up a new face, because to throw up a new face also takes time," he said. Besides, "people are not going to blindly test somebody who they have not tested (earlier). In UP, we will have to have a mix of both tested, and those who are being tested or will be tested. It is a mix of existing (candidates) and new ones."
Pitching for a bigger role for Priyanka, the Congress leader said, "This time the demand from (party) workers is that she should also spare some time to campaign in some other constituencies of Uttar Pradesh. I hope she will spare some time and campaign in other constituencies too," Azad told The Indian Express.
Priyanka has so far restricted herself to campaigning in family boroughs of Rae Bareli and Amethi, her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul's Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively.
Asked whether she can make a difference, Azad said, "Of course, if she campaigns…definitely it will help."
Asked whether Priyanka is an option as CM candidate, he said her hands are already full. "People want that after having spent her time in Amethi and Rae Bareli, she also spends time either visiting or campaigning in the rest of the state."
As for her taking a more active role in politics, the Congress leader said that is a decision for Priyanka to take.
In a steady decline in the politically crucial state, the Congress had won 28 of 355 seats it contested in the 2012 Assembly election. The party managed to win only in Amethi and Rae Bareli in the 2014 general election.
Azad, who is visiting UP on Thursday and Friday, said any decision on changing the party's state unit president will be taken after meeting the leaders there.
He said the main challenge for the Congress in the forthcoming election would be to counter attempts by other parties, particularly the BJP, to polarise the electorate. The BJP, he said, is trying to "vertically divide the state, and the country, polarising people in the name of religion, which is far more dangerous than casteism. We cannot have elections in the name of religion, then there is no need for elections."
Admitting that his party does not have a captive vote-bank unlike the other major parties, he said, "We will have to break this. (A) captive vote-bank might have benefited (other) political parties but it has damaged the very basic character of the society. Political parties are supposed to unite people, not divide them." He also said the Congress "may be weak and down", but only the party's philosophy and principles "can keep India united".