Sheila Dikshit to be Congress's UP CM face; big role for Priyanka

Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, 78, has finally acceded to the Congress party's wishes and will be named the presumptive chief minister of Uttar Pradesh by the party today.

According to NDTV, the Congress will also formally announce that the campaign for UP will see a lead role for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whose mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi are the top bosses of the Congress.

 Priyanka Gandhi, 44, had in the last election campaigned for her family in their constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi. This time, she is expected to lead rallies across the state, which votes next year.

Dikshit served three times as chief minister of Delhi before Arvind Kejriwal ousted her with a record mandate in December 2013.

Prashant Kishor, the election strategist credited with a huge role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's victory in the general election, has taken on the Congress as a client and made it clear about two months ago that he wanted a Brahmin face and an outsider as chief ministerial candidate, according to the NDTV report.

This, his team has said, was a calculated strategy designed to win back the Congress's traditional support base in India's most populous state.

Kishor also hopes to gain ground for the party among Muslims and non-Dalit Other Backward Castes (OBCs). With those sections, Kishor has calculated, the Congress can win 27-28 per cent of the vote share that's needed to win UP.

Priyanka Gandhi's last campaign in UP saw her asking voters to seek revenge on the Bharatiya Janata Party for its allegations of corruption against her husband, Robert Vadra, a controversial entrepreneur.

Vadra is being investigated for a land deal in Haryana struck while the Congress governed the state.

Retired Justice S N Dhingra last week sought more time to collect evidence in the inquiry that includes Vadra's purchase of a plot in Gurugram near Delhi and its sale three months later for allegedly windfall gains.

The BJP will surely say that Priyanka Gandhi's frontline position for Uttar Pradesh is evidence that her brother, Rahul, is being acknowledged within the Congress as failing to deliver.

Gandhi, 46, led the campaign in 2014 which accrued the party's worst-ever result. Since then, the Congress has been voted out in several other states.