The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday termed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry into active politics as an admission by the Congress that its president Rahul Gandhi has 'failed' in providing leadership and said he has opted for family 'crutches' after facing rejection from other opposition parties.
Priyanka's appointment as the Congress general secretary for Uttar Pradesh, East, which marked her entry into the party's hierarchy, was used by BJP leaders to take a swipe at the president of the opposition party and also at its 'family rule'.
BJP leaders chose not to target Priyanka even though they latched on to her appointment to target her brother and her party's 'dynastic leadership', claiming that the party is family in their organisation while the family is party in the Congress.
BJP leader and Union minister Piyush Goyal said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks about the poor and provided them 10 per cent quota recently, in the Congress there is reservation for the members of only one family.
Goyal's cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said wryly that since the Congress is a 'family concern', there is nothing unusual except about her appointment and wondered why was given the limited role of eastern UP as her persona merited a wider role for her.
Soon after her appointment, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters, "The Congress has basically publicly announced that Rahul Gandhi has failed and needs crutches from within the family. Because of his rejection by grand alliance parties, he has opted for a family alliance".
The new India is asking the question, the BJP leader said, that who will be the next leader in the Congress as he referred to its succession line from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi followed by Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
"All appointments are from one family. And this is the fundamental difference between the Congress and the BJP. In the Congress, the family is party. In the BJP, the party is family," Patra said.
Indicating that the ruling party will use the development to sharpen its attack on the Congress, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has projected the Lok Sabha elections as a battle between 'naamdar' (dynasts) and 'kaamdar' (those who have worked).
BJP leader and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman the dynastic politics has taken two steps forward with Priyanka's appointment.
Party's spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain described the move as a step taken by the Congress in panic but she cannot stop her party's 'inevitable defeat in the Lok Sabha polls'.
"The Congress has accepted the fact that it can not win elections under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. She had campaigned for the Congress in 2014 general elections in Uttar Pradesh and we all know what was the outcome," he said.
The BJP had won 71 of 80 seats in the state in 2014.
Taking a jibe, the ruling party's general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said only 'jijaji' -- a reference to Rahul's brother-in-law Robert Vadra -- has been left out now and that he should be made the treasurer of the Congress.
BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who is its chief whip in the Lok Sabha, said hardworking Congress party workers continue to be overlooked while members of a family continue to get promoted.
Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, he wondered if he couldn't trust anyone from UP Congress to lead the party.
BJP ally Janata Dal-United welcomed Priyanka's entry into active politics but its spokesperson K C Tyagi added that her appointment has come too late and would be of no help to the Congress' fortunes.
He said the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in UP had left little space for the Congress in the state and other BJP's rivals, including the Trinamool Congress, have virtually rejected Rahul Gandhi's leadership.
"Priyanka Gandhi's appointment is the last gambit of the Congress ahead of the polls. We wish her best," he added.
In his reaction, JD-U vice president Prashant Kishor, who had worked with the Congress as a poll strategist before joining the Bihar-based party, said, "One of the most awaited entries in Indian politics is finally here! While people may debate the timing, exact role and position, to me, the real news is that she finally decided to take the plunge! Congratulations and best wishes to Priyanka Gandhi".
Congress ally and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav welcomed her appointment, saying it will not only energise youth and party's cadre but also motivate 50 per cent woman population in politics.
If the Congress hopes to regain lost ground in Uttar Pradesh by bringing Priyanka Gandhi into active politics, political adversaries claim she will have no impact on the crucial state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Her appointment was dubbed a non-starter by the state BJP head Mahendra Pandey.
"There is not even a one per cent challenge,” Pandey said. “This only proves that the Congress cannot rise above the family."
Siddharth Nath Singh, spokesperson for the Yogi Adityanath government in the state, said the appointment is an admission that in the Gandhi family 'the dependence on Rahul is over'.
"This also means that Rahul Gandhi's fall is the rise of Priyanka Gandhi in Congress," he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Juhie Singh reacted cautiously to the development. "Purvanchal has a lot of importance in politics and Priyanka's appointment as in-charge of this region goes on to prove that it is being taken seriously by the Congress leadership," she said.
"We congratulate her. Our party has always been striving to bring more women and youth in politics and this is another step in this regard," she said.
Congress workers in Lucknow speculated that Priyanka Gandhi may contest the coming polls from her mother Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli constituency.
Party spokesperson Rajiv Bakshi said her appointment will give the party a chance to 'strike back' in the state.
But Lucknow-based political analyst Surendra Dwivedi said Priyanka Gandhi is yet to to prove herself, adding there were a lot expectations from her in the Congress.
"The Congress wants to bank on Priyanka's similarities with Indira Gandhi but she died in 1984, and the youth today does not have any empathy with the former prime minister," an analyst said.
But he added that Priyanka Gandhi is a 'good campaigner' and strikes a rapport with the people.
Another analyst Parvez Ahmed suggested her appointment will help the Congress deal with the SP-BSP alliance that many believe was struck with caste equations in mind. She provided them an alternative, he said.
In the Congress circles in Lucknow, the appointment is being seen as a masterstroke that will infuse energy in party workers in a state where its influence has been waning over the years.
"This is an opportunity for the Congress to strike back in the most crucial state of the country where the organisation had all through been wanting her to plunge into active politics," Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Rajiv Bakshi told PTI.
Winning Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, is vital for any party that plans to capture power at the Centre.
Meanwhile, BJP ally Shiv Sena said the Congress will benefit from Priyanka Gandhi's entry into politics as she has a good personality and possesses qualities of her grandmother Indira Gandhi.
Talking to PTI, Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said the Congress has strong reasons to rejoice because Priyanka Gandhi, who was so far on the periphery, will now be a part of active politics.
"The party will benefit from her good personality, her ways of presenting herself and her ability to strike a chord with the voters. She has the qualities of her grandmother," she said.
"While going out to vote, people will see Indira Gandhi in Priyanka," Kayande added.
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said Priyanka's formal induction into the party will enthuse party workers and the Congress will reap 'special benefits' in Uttar Pradesh.
"The SP-BSP alliance will not be affected much because they have a fixed vote bank of Yadavs, Dalits and Muslims. However, her (Priyanka's) clout will charge up the party workers," he said.
Malik said if the Congress plays intelligently using Priyanka's charm, the party will easily win 20-21 seats in UP, repeating its performance of 21 seats in the 2009 general elections.