Lok Sabha elections 2019: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, 47, has always confined her role in politics to the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi, Amethi and Raebareli, till now
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s plunge into active politics to galvanise ranks
She has been appointed in-charge of Uttar Pradesh east
Jyotiraditya Scindia will be Congress in-charge of western UP
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, has finally taken the plunge into politics, just months ahead of the national election due by May. Often dubbed the “Brahmastra” or the mythical ultimate weapon of the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will debut as the party’s general secretary in charge of the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, which pitches her against the ruling BJP’s top two mascots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose constituency Varanasi will be in her share – and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
“I have not sent Priyanka and Jyotiraditya for just two months. I have sent them to take the Congress’ ideology forward in Uttar Pradesh,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters.
47-year-old Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who reminds many of her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi, for both her charisma and the stunning likeness, is seen as a natural in politics but she has confined herself to the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi – Amethi and Raebareli – till now. In national and state elections since 2004, the mother-of-two has campaigned exhaustively in the family seats where the Gandhis enjoy almost royal status.
Sources say her appointment to a key position reflects the Congress’s realisation that in a politically vital state like Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary seats and is considered the route to power at the centre, the party needs to up its game and cannot afford just one in-charge. It is a huge gamble for the Congress, a sign that the party is all for aggressively taking on PM Modi and the BJP in the coming election.
The Congress dropped the Priyanka bombshell in the third para of a press statement that also announced that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be in charge of western UP. The giant announcement came as Rahul Gandhi began a two-day visit to Amethi. Priyanka Gandhi is in New York and is expected to return on February 1.
Congress leaders say Priyanka Gandhi’s arrival in party politics will galvanise the ranks that have been demoralised by the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav move to form an alliance in UP for the national election without the Congress, which has been pitching for a grand opposition alliance to take on the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi commented that the BJP was “panicking”.
Priyanka takes the stage: 5 things you need to know about the entry of the latest Gandhi into politics
1) She may have taken the formal political plunge on Wednesday, but it’s no secret that Priyanka Gandhi has been closely involved behind the scenes in creating the Congress’s 2019 Lok Sabha campaign strategy. The difference now is that she will have a very active public profile. And that, perhaps, is exactly what the Congress is aiming for. The much-talked-about brahmastra (ultimate weapon) has finally been unleashed by the party.
2) One theory regarding the timing of Priyanka’s elevation is that the Congress leadership believes she will be able to wrest a chunk of upper caste votes back from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Eating into the BJP’s upper caste vote bank is part of a strategy to limit the BJP’s chances in Uttar Pradesh, with the SP-BSP alliance expected to corner a solid portion of the Muslim-OBC-Dalit vote share.
3) Though rumours of Priyanka joining politics have been swirling for at least two decades, it’s remarkable how closely guarded the actual announcement was, catching most Congress-watchers off guard. By keeping a very tight lid on the decision, which by all accounts had been taken months ago, the Grand Old Party ensured that the impact of the move was maximised.
4) While Priyanka will be under immense media scrutiny from now, her few public appearances from the past reveal a greater comfort with Hindi than her brother Rahul and an ability to connect with crowds. However, it’s a little premature to determine if she can be the vote-catching magnet that the Congress is banking on.
5) Priyanka is expected to focus on her designated area of eastern Uttar Pradesh and make a difference to the Congress’s fortunes. Can she turn the tables on the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, both of whom have won elections from this part of the state? All eyes will be on her. But failure can be costly, especially if expectations are unrealistic. As Priyanka herself said years ago, the thing with the brahmastra is that it can be used only once.
The ruling party has been repeatedly targeting Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra, a businessman being investigated for allegedly corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan. Robert Vadra congratulated his wife in a Facebook post: “Congratulations P… always by your side in every phase of your life.”
Priyanka Gandhi was always active in decision-making and played a key role in the alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election. She also reportedly oversaw the party meeting in which her older brother was crowned Congress president.
The BJP shrugged off the Congress announcement. “Rahul Gandhi failed so they need Priyanka as a crutch. Can’t they find anyone beyond that family?” sneered BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
The views expressed by the author are personal