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Priyanka Gandhi Says Will Contest Polls If Congress Wants

LUCKNOW: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today said she was ready to contest the national election "if her party wanted". No decision has been taken yet, she asserted, with the election just weeks away. Responding to the frequently asked question of whether she would like to contest, Priyanka Gandhi surprised reporters with a more direct: "Why not?" "Even you can," she threw back to the reporter, but it did not silence the questions. "If my party wants me to contest polls then I will definitely do so," the newest Gandhi in the Congress said. The 47-year-old was speaking to reporters in Amethi, her brother Rahul Gandhi's constituency in Uttar Pradesh, where she arrived this afternoon to campaign. She will head to her mother Sonia Gandhi's constituency Raebareli tomorrow.

This is the first time that the younger Gandhi sibling has revealed that she is open to fighting the election. She joined politics in January after years in the Congress backrooms, with only a guest role in the party's campaigns, that too confined to the two Gandhi family constituencies. When she was appointed the Congress's in-charge of eastern UP, there was speculation that she would contest from Raebareli and Sonia Gandhi, the former Congress president, would retire. The congress put a lid on those rumours by naming Sonia Gandhi in its very first list of candidates. There was also speculation that Priyanka Gandhi would be pitted against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, which is in eastern UP, but even that was dismissed by the party as baseless talk. Congress workers believe that Priyanka Gandhi contesting the polls can significantly lift the party's fortunes. Many of them believe Priyanka, with her striking resemblance to grandmother Indira Gandhi, is a sure-shot hit with the masses. The buzz has been kept alive by Priyanka Gandhi's increased public appearances, the frequency of her chats with the media to field attacks from the BJP and Mayawati and her recent three-day boat campaign on the river Ganga that ended in Varanasi.

Speaking to reporters this evening, Priyanka Gandhi hit back at the BJP and Mayawati over their attacks on the Congress's minimum guarantee scheme NYAY, announced by her older brother Rahul Gandhi on Monday. "The Congress doesn't bluff, the Congress does what it promises. Those who bluff make such accusations," she said hours after a stinging tweet by Mayawati, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief who has relentlessly attacked the Congress after excluding the party from the opposition gathbandhan in UP. Mayawati had tweeted that the BJP "is right" when it called NYAY a Congress "bluff". Uttar Pradesh will vote in all seven rounds of the election from April 11 to May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.