Priyanka Gandhi continues to make waves in Uttar Pradesh as many party leaders see the new General Secretary as key to resurrecting the Congress's fortunes in the politically-crucial state but her absence is being felt in the state capital where the party office is not as bustling.
Appointed General Secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh on January 23, she had taken on her assignment with a long road show here on February 11, accompanied by her brother and Congress President Rahul Gandhi and her western UP counterpart Jyotiraditya Scindia.
After marathon meetings with party workers for over 40 hours during her four day stay in the city (February 11-14), she was supposed to address a press conference on February 14, but following the deadly suicide bombing on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, she called it off after paying homage to the CRPF victims.
Since then, Priyanka Gandhi has twice visited the state - visiting family members of one of the CRPF victims of the Pulwama attack in Shamli on February 20 and meeting Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad at the hospital he is admitted in Meerut on Wednesday - but not come to the state capital.
The Nehru Bhawan, which was white-washed before her arrival to the city on February 11, is functioning in a more low-key manner.
Brijmohan Pathak, 73, of Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, who also attended the marathon meeting of Priyanka Gandhi, told IANS, "Seems the party has lost its shine."
"She held meetings for whole night with the party's grassroots workers. She discussed the problems of the party. But now after that meeting, I have not seen her again."
Ravindra Mishra, a party supporter from Lucknow, however, denied that Priyanka Gandhi's absence had led to enthusiasm waning.
"After holding the meeting with the party workers, she had assigned tasks to them. And the party workers in her absence are doing that in their respective constituencies," he said.
Ramchandra Pandey, who is in his late 70s, said that the party has regained its lost charm.
"Many people like us, who had left the party after Rajiv Gandhi and joined the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party are coming back to Congress fold.
"Now people think that the BJP and the Congress are the main competitors in the election and not the BSP and the SP," Pandey, who hails from Basti, said.
Congress leader Viren Madan claimed that the party membership has increased by around 3.75 lakh since January 23 and all across the state.
Even at the office, several party spokespersons were seen speaking to media persons on several political issues.
Congress media coordinator Rajiv Bakshi said that there is a lot of emotion and hope with Priyanka Gandhi's presence.
"She is the leader in demand. She touches people's emotions, needs and requirements and that is what the people need and that is what people are looking forward to," he said, noting that about 2-3 lakh people came out to listen to Priyanka Gandhi during her road show in Lucknow.
According to party sources, Priyanka Gandhi is set to return on March 17 and meet party workers.