Mixed bag of hope, faith, cynicism as UP Congress awaits Priyanka

Lucknow: It’s a mixed bag of hope, faith and cynicism at the Congress office at the Mall Avenue here as party loyalists await both “acche din” and the arrival of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, after her appointment as the party general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha polls.

On Saturday, as hundreds gathered at the party office to celebrate the 70th Republic Day, the mood here was upbeat, euphoric but there were words for abundant caution as party leaders said while they see “Indira Gandhi in Priyanka” there was a lots to be done.

Anil Kumar Sharma, assistant permanent secretary (Organisation) who pedals more than 14-km to reach the office daily is all smiles as he says a defining moment “in the battle of truth versus lies has arrived.” “Modi and the BJP fooled the people with their lofty talks and have delivered nothing. Their slogan of Congress-Mukt Bharat will never succeed and Priyanka ji will knock the daylights out of the ruling party” he mused.

Ram Avtaar who runs the party canteen and has been living in the party office campus since he was two (he is now 47), is also a thumbs up for Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into active politics. He says while till not long ago he sold 100 off cups of tea daily, the number has gone up to 250 ever since the high-decibel announcement was made and footfalls to the office increased.

Om Prakash Rai, is a ‘chowkidar’ at the office. Hailing from Ballia in eastern UP, he is sure that “acche din (good days) for the party were just round the corner”.

However there are many like Gyas Ahmad, Santosh Gaur, Pramod Shukla, Shiv Shankar and Vishnu Avatar who are circumspect at the assessment of others. All of them were drivers and have been terminated from service a few months back due to cash crunch that the Congress was facing. “We will meet her, may be she will help.” says a former party staffer.

In a dimly-lit room inside the office, packed with old newspaper clippings, Arman Ahmad, a bearded 33-year-old Muslim working for the ‘Seva Dal’ for the past three years is however circumspect at the euphoria following Priyanka’s political debut. “I am wedded to the Congress due to its secular ideology but tell me how can change come if the organisational structure continues to be so rusted as it is now” he points out.

A homeopath by profession and a self-professed admirer of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he rues how he could manage to convince a paltry 50 persons in his ward New Haiderganj in three years to join the party. “We need more visibility,” he suggests.

The party office here is also getting dressed up for the visit of Priyanka Gandhi, dates of which are being worked out.

Camouflaged by high-rises that have cropped up in the neighbourhood, government offices and a heritage hotel on one side, the state Congress headquarters has been painted in white, the old media interaction hall has been demolished and a new, bigger one is being built with new tiles, bigger windows and new air-conditioners.

The NSUI office in the campus however lies neglected. Inaugurated in 1986, the office next to a bust of Indira Gandhi has a rusted lock at its gate, which rarely opens now, says a party man. UPCC spokesman Virendra Madan downplays the renovation and makeover. “This has been going on for some months now as we try to get battle ready for the Lok Sabha challenge” Madan told IANS.