Can Priyanka Gandhi save Congress?

Photo: DNA RNA

Photo: DNA RNA

At 1999 campaign, she said in an interview to BBC: “I am very clear in my mind. Politics is not a strong pull, the people are. And I can do things for them without being in politics”. Nonetheless, the question of her joining formal politics would be bothersome: “I have said it a thousand times; I am not interested in joining politics…” the latter part might contradict the latest development around her. She was interested in contesting against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Varanasi, but the party leadership has some other plans for her. We still remember her fiery barb on Modi against ‘Gudiya’ row in the summer elections of 2009.

The decisive mandate of 2014 boldly reflects the decline of the Congress share in the Lok Sabha tally. No doubt, the present wider Nehru-Gandhi family does not want the halo of being tainted enough, to be sidelined easily. The Congress might have calculated the access of vulnerable attacks by the opposition on the DLF-Vadra scam. She is not tainted, but of course painted. Congress leadership might be looking for the timing to launch her.

There is no doubt; she is clearly still interested in Varanasi, even if she’s not in the fight for herself. At a meeting at the Tughlaq Lane residence of Rahul last Monday, Priyanka gave Ajay Rai a pep talk soon after the party decided to field him. “Priyankaji ne kaha ki aap jam kar ladiye. Unhone apna personal mobile number bhi diya aur kaha ki aapko jo bhi zaroorat hogi woh aap turant bolen. Woh aapko muhaiyya karayi jaayegi. (Priyankaji told me to fight wholeheartedly. She gave me her personal mobile number and told me not to hesitate to ask for anything that I may need and said I will be given every help),” Rai quoted her as telling him. It was evident that this was done to ensure that the leadership of Rahul Gandhi was not challenged either outside the ‘family’ or from within.

In 2004, there was a speculation that Priyanka Gandhi might contest the polls from Amethi, but there was a dramatic regime change. Rahul Gandhi handled the torch for the seat which was held by his father and mother. In the past there were several occasions where it appeared as a change of guard imminent in Gandhi family. Yet Mrs. Vadra adapts herself in serving the assistance to her mother and brother yet, side-by-side.

In 2008 after the 26/11 attack she told one journalist that her grandmother would have acted in a way that would have made all of us proud. In such an hour of crisis, such kind of a statement does not come prime minister of from any official. At that stage, the substantial Priyanka Gandhi was at its best, and increased people’s much awaited eagerness to enter into public life.

No doubt Priyanka symbolised and appeared to be more connected to the people; party workers in Amethi and Rae Bareily have a special seat for her in their hearts, not just for being a Gandhian scion, but because of her connectedness. Why has the ‘family’ not made optimum use of her charisma?

Rae Bareily and Amethi have turned out to be a stamp seat for the descendents in the Congress party. But in the coming decade India might witness the change of guard amongst the family from the Rae Bareily and Amethi. After Sonia, she will be the Congress’ hand at the center level.