Will Priyanka Gandhi succeed in chasing away ‘panic-stricken’ rats?

There is a lot of talk about Priyanka's possible political impact. But the fact remains, Priyanka's face-off with Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections failed to stop the Modi wave.

 |  4-minute read |   24-01-2019
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Will Priyanka Gandhi succeed in chasing the ‘rats’ away, now that she is not only campaigning in the family borough of Rae Bareli and Amethi but has also been appointed the Congress party general secretary of Uttar Pradesh (east)?

rahul-690_012319064811.jpgPriyanka Gandhi has officially joined as the general secretary of the Congress in UP. (Source: PTI)

Jog your memory to the 2014 general elections — Priyanka Gandhi was leading the Congress charge against the BJP in Rae Bareli and had made a comment about the opposition leaders running like panic-stricken rats.

The BJP took umbrage at the comment and senior party leader Prakash Javadekar called it derogatory and abusive politics. The complaint about Priyanka Gandhi’s 'rodent' comment was duly lodged with the Election Commission and Ravi Shankar Prasad went on to call Priyanka Gandhi a keen observer of rodents.

While so far, Priyanka Gandhi has confined her politics to helping Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi manage their election campaigns in Rae Bareli and Amethi, she is now set to lead the charge in the whole of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The question — “Will Priyanka Gandhi prove to be Congress’s trump card? — will soon be answered.

‘UP east’ is difficult political terrain. The region includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, and chief minister Yogi Adityanath Gorakhpur. This is a bold challenge and the Congress is making a big statement by bringing Priyanka into the battle from the region.

modi-690_012319065211.jpgWill Priyanka Gandhi be able to dislodge PM Narendra Modi from Varanasi? (Source: India Today)

In the last leg of the 2014 election campaign, a war of words between Modi and Priyanka heated up the electoral atmosphere in the country. With Priyanka taking charge of east UP, expect the battle to become an interesting Modi versus Priyanka duel.

The question to ask is — will this announcement from the Congress leave the Opposition 'panic-stricken'?

Priyanka’s presence is certain to give fresh energy to the Congress campaign.

Will this translate into votes?

Priyanka has not been tested beyond the family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Her campaign in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, which also saw her take on Modi directly, had virtually no impact on the Modi wave that swept India.

By fielding Priyanka and Jyotiraditya Scindia in the rough and tumble of UP politics, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has given a clear message that they are going all-out in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) announced their seat-sharing alliance earlier this month and later included the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) too in the seat-sharing arrangement.

maya-690_012319065046.jpgThe SP-BSP alliance left out the Congress when it came to a seat-sharing arrangement. (Source: PTI)

This indicated that Uttar Pradesh was largely headed for a two-way fight between the Mahagathbandhan and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), with the Congress being reduced to the Gandhi family bastions and a handful of other seats.

Priyanka’s entry into the battle is a way of the Congress saying that it isn’t ready to let go of such an important state. This can help the party woo potential allies like Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) and Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) as well.

The BJP has so far refrained from directly attacking Priyanka Gandhi but it has called her plunge a result of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘failure’.

The development offers the BJP another chance to mould the discourse around dynastic politics championed by the Congress, which the BJP believes propagates only the ‘family’ line. The BJP can now harp on the 'naamdar' (dynasts) and 'kaamdar' (hard-working people) more loudly. The BJP has already said the development shows Rahul Gandhi falling back on his family for support after being rejected by all parties the Congress reached out to for an alliance.

Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra could turn out to be her biggest weakness as the BJP is likely to rake up the issue of corruption allegations surrounding Vadra. 

gandddd-690_012319064838.jpgWill husband Robert Vadra prove to be Priyanka's biggest political weakness? (Source: Reuters)

But Priyanka’s entry into active politics is sure to make some impact.

Indian politics has for a long time revolved around the towering images it has created of its leaders.

From Indira Gandhi to Modi, from BSP leader Mayawati to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD leader Lalu Yadav, many leaders have benefited from image-building exercises.

Priyanka Gandhi’s limited role in politics saw her as a reflection of her grandmother Indira Gandhi, a leader who had an easy connect with the people.

Will Priyanka fit into that image now? This is what is being put to test.

Uttar Pradesh sure is headed for one of its most interesting contests.

Also read: How Priyanka Gandhi joining the party could change the Congress' fortunes in 2019 Lok Sabha Polls

Writer

Naghma Sahar Naghma Sahar @naghmasahar

Author is a senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

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