New Delhi: Pushed to the corner in Uttar Pradesh by the SP-BSP alliance, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday played his trump card by appointing his younger sister Priyanka Gandhi as the party General Secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh to galvanise the Congress cadre in a state that sends the maximum number of 80 members to the Lok Sabha.
In an organisational shake-up ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the party also announced the appointment of Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP from Guna in Madhya Pradesh, as the Congress General Secretary in charge of western Uttar Pradesh.
With this, Priyanka Gandhi, married to controversial businessman Robert Vadra and mother of two children, makes a full-fledged entry into politics casting aside her earlier political role that was mainly confined to the constituencies of Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi).
She will be taking charge of the new responsibility from the first week of February, a press release issued by General Secretary Ashok Gehlot said.
With her foray into active politics, speculation of Priyanka Gandhi contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from her mother's constituency Rae Bareli gained ground.
This is perhaps the first time the party has split the organisational responsibilities of its General Secretary in Uttar Pradesh into zones.
With both Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia entrusted with eastern and western UP respectively, party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was the General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, has now been confined to Haryana.
The Congress, which has been marginalised in Uttar Pradesh after 1989, has come under pressure ever since the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party decided a fortnight ago to join hands in Uttar Pradesh keeping the Congress out of it. The two parties just left Rae Bareli and Amethi for the Congress.
In its best performance since 1989, the Congress won 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 but dropped to just two seats of Sonia and Rahul Gandhis in 2014.
In the shake-up on Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi also appointed Lok Sabha member from Kerala K.C. Venugopal as Congress General Secretary (Organisation), replacing Ashok Gehlot, who is now the Rajasthan Chief Minister.
While Congress workers and leaders hailed the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi saying it would boost the party's performance in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP said such a development was only expected of a "family" party that has believed in dynasty rule from the days of Jawharlal Nehru.