Rahul will be Congress ‘trump card’: Rita Bahuguna (Interview)

New Delhi, Feb 11 (Calcutta Tube) Rahul Gandhi has led the Congress resurgence in Uttar Pradesh and will be the ‘trump card’ of the party as it prepares for three tiers of elections – panchayat, municipal and assembly polls – in the nation’s most populous state, says state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

‘He is the future of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and in India,’ Joshi told IANS about the Congress general secretary.

Joshi said the party will contest the 2012 assembly elections on the platform of ‘development politics’ and was readying to prove its mettle in the panchayat elections this year and the municipal polls of 2011.

‘We are preparing for three stages of elections and have begun the process of identifying candidates,’ Joshi, who took over as the Uttar Pradesh chief in September 2007, said here.

But she has no qualms in admitting that the party is heavily banking on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi to garner votes.

Describing them as ‘magic wands’, Joshi said she would urge them to address meetings in the state frequently. She said Rahul Gandhi was the Congress ‘trump card’ and had led its rise in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress made a surprise comeback in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, winning 21 out of 80 seats in the sprawling state, compared to just nine in 2004. She said the party wanted to ‘fight communal and casteist forces and rid the state of corruption and bad governance’.

The Congress has launched a massive membership drive in Uttar Pradesh, Joshi said. Congress members have gone up by over two million to 5.7 million. The membership drive coincides with the party’s organisational elections that will be over in July.

The Congress has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh since 1989. It suffered a rapid decline in the state through the 1990s. In 2007, it won a mere 22 seats in the 404-member house.

But Joshi believes the party is on its way back.

‘In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, we finished first in 106 assembly constituencies, second in 45 and third in 57. In the Firozabad Lok Sabha by-elections, we increased our vote share to 350,000 from 1,800 within a space of six months,’ she pointed out. ‘Only a Congress government can ensure proper development of the state.’

However, Joshi is concerned over the rising prices of food items as it ‘would impact’ the party’s electoral prospects. ‘We are all very worried (about price rise),’ she said. But she said it was wrong to blame the central government as the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh had failed to check rising prices. She said there was a wide difference between the wholesale price index and retail prices of commodities in the state.

Joshi accused the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government of not acting against hoarders and said sugar was being sold at Rs.52 a kg in the state while it was available for Rs.35 in some states.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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