Lucknow: The decision of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to retain his Raebareli seat has given new hope to Congress workers in Uttar Pradesh.

What has further added to their joy is the fact that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will now be contesting the Wayanad seat.

“The situation now is doubly advantageous for us. Rahul Gandhi choosing to retain Raebareli will mean his increased presence and involvement in party affairs here. Besides, with Priyanka going to Wayanad, her coterie will also follow her there and Uttar Pradesh will be free from their clutches,” said a veteran Congress leader who had been expelled from the party by former UPCC chief Ajay Kumar Lallu when Priyanka was in charge of Uttar Pradesh.

The leader, who did not wish to be named, said that maximum damage to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh was caused by Priyanka’s team.

“Her coterie misbehaved with senior leaders, sold tickets for a price and did not allow anyone to meet Priyanka who, in any case, was not willing to listen to complaints against her team. It was the misbehaviour by her team that led to a massive exodus from the party. Leaders like Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Laliteshpati Tripathi and dozens of others left the Congress,” said another senior party leader.

He further said that those, who did not move to greener pastures, receded into their shells and stopped even coming to the UPCC office.

A senior leader said to be close to Rahul Gandhi said that the latter was keen to bring back party veterans into the political mainstream on one hand, and on the other, he wanted to include young blood in the Congress.

Party strategists also feel that Rahul’s presence in UP will further strengthen the alliance with Samajwadi Party.

“The outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh has indicated that the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance’s votes and conversion of seats increased after Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav decided to contest 2024 polls from Kannauj and Rae Bareli seats respectively. Moreover, their relationship was marked by camaraderie and this percolated down to the cadres who worked together in the polls. With Rahul here, there will be no room for middlemen to create confusion between the two alliance members,” said a senior leader.

Senior party leaders have called this the right move and say this was an indication towards the party’s continuing increased focus on Uttar Pradesh. The party has already given indications that its alliance with the SP will continue.

The Congress, which contested 17 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the Samajwadi Party and won six seats, has been looking for a push for a turnaround and the 2024 poll results appear to have provided the desired opportunity. The Samajwadi Party won 37 seats, compared to the five seats it had won in 2019.

Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh focussed on issues like the caste census, the move to change the Constitution, rising unemployment and scrapping of the Agnivir scheme etc. This worked effectively in the state.