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Political diary 311

Publication Date : 10-08-2014


Priyanka Gandhi Vadra herself has ended all speculation about her entry into active politics at this point of time. There had been speculation in the past week in the Congress as well as the media about her plunging into an active political career, creating a flutter. She was forced to this as it gave a handle to the BJP to target her brother and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and also cause confusion within the party ranks.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hinted at a palace coup when Rahul Gandhi rushed to the well of the house to demand discussion on the communal riots in Uttar Pradesh in an uncharacteristic manner this week. “I would be very grateful to all concerned if they desisted from encouraging such baseless rumors,” Priyanka was forced to appeal on Friday.

There is no doubt that the rumour began within the top echelons of the Congress as a section believes that Priyanka should be brought forward to save the party. This demand had started soon after the Congress debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. The party’s worst ever tally of 44 in the has disheartened the rank and file.

This section consists of those who find no place in Sonia or Rahul Gandhi’s coterie and those who fear they would be marginalised. With the talk of party restructuring after the Assembly polls, those who might be axed are desperate to remain relevant.

Now that Priyanka has put the lid on her entry for the time being, the question remains whether her addition would help the sinking party to revive. Gandhis must have pondered over whether this was the right time for Priyanka to take a leadership role in the Congress. It would admit to the failure of Rahul Gandhi, which the family is not yet ready to concede.

The Gandhis have an excellent sense of timing and assessment before fielding a member of the dynasty. Wiser counsel must have prevailed, as she is the last trump card left with the Gandhi family. If by chance Priyanka fails, which is not ruled out, nothing more is left for the family and the dynasty will disappear after that.

Is the family ready to risk this? Some argue that Priyanka has age on her side and therefore if she has to be inducted it should be when the party is in a position to win and not when it is routed. The immediate future looks quite bleak with the Congress poised to lose Haryana and Maharashtra – the two states where it is currently ruling - in the coming Assembly elections. So why risk Priyanka now?

Secondly her biggest baggage is husband Robert Vadra who has been mired in land grab controversies and also business deals. The minute she enters politics the “Vadra, Vadra” chorus will begin, as the BJP will try to exploit the situation by bringing out more scams – real and imaginary. The officer who exposed Vadra in the DLF property deal in Haryana is now joining the PMO.

The Gandhis have maintained an eerie silence over these scams but that is not going to stop the Modi government from pursuing Vadra.

Thirdly, no doubt many in the Congress believe that she might restore the Gandhi magic just by her name. This is disputed as today people no longer vote for the family. Aspirations of people have skyrocketed and young people want good lives, jobs and a thriving economy so that they benefit.

The Congress has changed so much over the years and there is much more that needs to be done to revive the party. Gandhi critics point out that Priyanka has had no experience in politics, only the Gandhi name and a pretty face. In fact her vote-catching capacity is being questioned as even in the two U.P constituencies - Amethi and Rae Bareily - where she had been campaigning vigorously for the past 15 years the results were not very encouraging.

Fourthly, the Gandhis prepare adequately before launching a member of the family and the groundwork is done with great care and months in advance. Right now there is  no evidence of such planning except a demand from a section of the Congress. There is no sign of the chorus picking up. Also once Priyanka comes in there will be three power centres. Already Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are two power centres and one more will add to the confusion with a coterie around each of them.

Instead of getting one more member of the dynasty, the Congress should concentrate on building up the party as well as the leadership in the states. It should also undertake some brutal surgery and get rid of the dead wood as well as promote talent in the younger generation. What is required in the Congress is the capacity to go

to the people and build confidence. For all this the leadership should be ready to face challenges. Rahul Gandhi, if he is serious, should change his style of functioning and turn himself into a 24/7 politician and lead the party both in Parliament and on the streets. The party should also look to add new allies as well as retain the present UPA flock and bide time.


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