agencies / New Delhi
Unnao rape victim’s mother Asha Singh, Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act-NRC activist Sadaf Jafar, ASHA leader Poonam Pandey and Sonbhadra’s tribal leader Rajram Gonda have made it to the first list of 125 candidates the Congress announced on Thursday morning.
The list of 125 candidates has 50 women – 40 per cent – as promised earlier by AICC general secretary in charge of the state Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who unveiled the names of the 50 women.
Fielding women candidates, Vadra said it was not about creating new vote banks. “It is only about giving women what is absolutely their right. Women make up 50 per cent of the population and have every right of equal participation in electoral politics.”
Vadra, however, skipped a question on whether she would contest herself in the upcoming UP election that begins on February 10 and sufficed to say, “Even after the elections, I will continue to work in UP and in other states, as the party wants me to.”
The first list of the Congress is replete with people seen protesting on the roads of Uttar Pradesh over the recent years and includes Asha Singh from Unnao, Sadaf Jafar from Lucknow Central, Rajraj Gonda from Obra, ASHA worker Poonam Pandey from Shahjahanpur, Alpana Nishad from Allahabad South and Ritu Singh. Ritu Singh recently made news when she was prevented from filing her nomination for the block president’s election in UP. She has been fielded from Mohammdi segment in UP.
UP Congress chief Ajay Lallu will contest from Tamkuhi Raj, CLP leader Aradhna Mishra from Rampur Khas and former union minister Salman Khurshid’s wife Louis Khurshid will contest from Farrukhabad. Former Bareilly mayor Supriya Aron has been fielded from Bareilly Cantt.
Naming the women candidates, Vadra said the aim behind fielding women was to help them “take their fight in their own hands and continue to struggle against the system that seeks to muzzle them”.
Vadra made light of the recent serial defections from the Congress, including of three MLAs who joined the BJP on Wednesday and of Saharanpur leader Imran Masood, saying, “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram is a natural phenomenon before any election. I do not think any party should worry too much about defections. Ours is an ideological struggle and the fight is in a phase where we need courage and resilience. People do get anxious thinking of victories and defeats but you cannot help it in politics.”
Asked to comment on UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s 80-20 remarks in attempts to polarise the elections, Vadra said the Congress would not resort to negative campaigning in UP.
“We have to steer election narratives in a more positive direction. Look at the level of our health spending, look at our education expenditure. It is much easier to mobilise people on hate. It is difficult to mobilise people on a positive agenda. In UP and India we need to have a more constructive discussion on politics and I am happy to be a part of that dialogue,” said Vadra, adding that the party would soon start door-to-door campaigns in UP.
Vadra said the Congress would stress positive issues, issues of the future, issues of development, women’s empowerment, and the advancement of SCs.
“We want unity in UP, equality, and a solution to the problems of the state,” Vadra said, adding that through Thursday’s list the Congress is giving the message that service of society is and should be the principal motivation behind politics.
Ours is a mixed list with old timers and new faces, she said.
The Congress leader added that their decision to project women leaders had already become a success.
“The PM had to do a women-specific rally in UP. Yogi Adityanath had to make women-specific announcements, the SP chief and BSP chief had to do the same. We have already brought women into electoral discussions. Today in UP elections, women cannot be ignored by any party. This is our success. Now we will raise issues of development – health, education, employment, social empowerment and bring them centre stage,” she said.
Congress UP candidates
Asha Singh: Mother of the Unnao rape victim whose struggle for justice continues as her husband was killed, her brother-in-law is in jail and daughter sexually assaulted and threatened
Poonam Pandey: ASHA worker fighting for raise in remunerations
Ritu Singh: Assaulted by BJP workers when she recently tried to file nomination for block chief poll
Sadaf Jafar: Arrested and jailed for anti CAA-NRC protests in Lucknow
Rajram Gonda: Led the fight of Sonbhadra tribals, whom Priyanka supported
Supriya Aron: Former Bereilly mayor
Louis Khurshid: Wife of former union minister Salman Khurshid
Archana Mishra: Sitting CLP leader in UP