Priyanka Gandhi Vadra: A Guided Missile Or A Loose Cannon?
She has been the star campaigner for her mother and brother in their constituencies Raebareli and Amethi respectively since 1999. Her aggressive style and eagerness to engage in an eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation came handy
Intense clamour by Congress leaders and activists that Priyanka, Indira Gandhi-reborn, be inducted in the party and made lead campaigner went unheeded. Just like in the Indian families, in the Italian ones the son is always favoured to be the heir. Will this prove fatal to the Dynasty and the party?
Priyanka has outshone her brother in campaigning despite odds weighing heavily in his favour.
Her aggression, boldness bordering on brazenness and her quick riposte—Priyanka has in the ongoing general election shown aggression, boldness in riposte to Narendra Modi on equal footing.
Indeed Priyanka has been nastier than Modi.
Well would that make her an avenging fairy for the family and the party?
Or a destroyer unable to hold back the alleged Modi wave from submerging her family?
Her weakest link is her husband Robert Vadra. Has she by standing by him helped in avoiding Vadra from becoming an electoral issue, which Modi has been trying hard for? All Answers would be available on May 16.
Hamare ghar ke naukar theiy. Unki himmat kaise padhi ki hamare khilaf khade hain.” This was the first quip from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra that forced people all over India to appraise her personality and potential in politics. Soon enough the demand was made by party leaders to give her wider role. But it was not to the liking of her mother. So Priyanka continues to keep herself limited to politicking in the constituencies of her mother and brother, Raebareli and Amethi, respectively. Yet on occasions one could feel that Priyanka was trying to break out and campaign all over.
Has this election and her exchanges with Narendra Modi matured her enough to take over more responsibility in the party? It seems to have. And the circumstances are building up in her favour now, although she caught the attention of the people way back in 1999. It was in the 1999 general election that she came out as an aggressive, bold and a courageous person. At that time her forceful stand paid dividends and Arun Nehru, to whom she was referring to lost badly.
Her own kismet also changed dramatically and she started to be seen as Indira Gandhi reborn. She could give it straight to the rivals. But her admirers forgot that she lacked the training that her grandmother had under no less a person than Jawaharlal Nehru. Possibly, this is why Priyanka has not been so far as assertive as Indira. She could stand up to Nehru and compel him to put Kerala under Governor’s rule. It was a wrong, undemocratic move but it turned out to be a precursor to many unconstitutional and undemocratic things she did after becoming prime minister.
Notwithstanding all this, the legion of Priyanka’s admirers still believe that she has the charisma, style, the art of establishing contact with the audiences and the probity to be able to claim the prime minister gaddi.
Until now she said the right things that endeared her to the people. At a 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.
“I have said it a thousand times, I am not interested in joining politics…” She has however continued to regularly visit her mother’s and brother’s constituencies of Rae Bareilly and Amethi, where she dealt with the people directly. She is a popular figure in the constituency, drawing large crowds everywhere; a popular slogan in Amethi in every election has been Amethi ka danka, bitiya Priyanka (the clarion call from Amethi is for Priyanka [to stand elections]).
It would be pertinent to recall that in 2004 general election she said that she would give herself five years (to decide about joining politics). It is now 10 years. Is this why she has raised her tenor and her barbs at Modi, the main opponent, more poisonous? It is these barbs and the verbal assaults that have made her known all over India.
WAR OF WORDS
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has matched BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi byte for byte, barb for barb. It’s unlikely that she will change the course of the election now, but is the new Priyanka avatar—a sign of her assuming a bigger role in the Congress after elections?
She says she did not start these exchanges. In fact she was the one to escalate the exchanges and bring down the standard.
Priyanka hits at Modi saying the Lok Sabha poll is a clash between two ideologies. “There is one ideology under which we want to empower common people. All our schemes have been made keeping in mind the objectives that you should be strengthened.
“On the other hand, there is another ideology in which all powers are centred in one person’s hand (Modi) where one man’s decision will be applicable to all and all government policies and programmes will be aimed at some selected people. This is a separate ideology.”
Congress is for uniting people, the other for divisiveness.
BJP counters, that Congress’s secularism is actually sickularism
Modi: “I will quit politics rather than insult Kargil martyrs (on charge that he insulted Cpt. Vikram Batra).
“The character of the Congress is to divide and rule and incite brothers against brother. It created a division between people speaking the same language in Andhra Pradesh by creating Telangana. In Assam, it incited Bodos against non-Bodos. Theirs is divisive politics. Theirs is todne ki rajniti, while ours is jodne ki,” Modi said.
Riposte from Rahul, “Modi divides people like the British did.”
Taking a dig at Narendra Modi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said it is not a 56-inch chest Modi claimed that is needed to run the country but a “big heart” and “moral strength”.
“To run this country cruel force of power is not needed, but moral strength is needed. It needs an internal strength.”
“Congress did not start such low politics but the BJP which is filled with malice.
“A candidate for prime minister’s gaddi should not be cheap and bachkana,” said Priyanbka.
“They are running around like scared rats,” said Priyanka.
“It is Vadra who should be panic-stricken and running around like scared rats,” said BJP. (VD)
Priyanka by engaging in acidic verbal war with Modi has got herself the attention of not only the Indian people but the media abroad as well. One must understand that behind her smiles and her verbal abuses uttered in even tone, there is a bright mind. Her upping the level of campaigning she forced attention on herself, eclipsing brother Rahul, who has been given maha-ignore by his party, media and the voter.
This is a tremendous change. Priyanka, 42, had traditionally ceded the limelight to her older brother Rahul, 43, usually described as the diffident scion of the country’s most famous political family. But in the last lap of the current election, Priyanka has emerged swinging against Narendra Modi, who is expected to deliver his party’s strongest performance ever.
Priyanka has now declared a no-holds-barred feud with Modi, calling the battle against Modi and the BJP a “fight for the heart” of a secular India. “The ideology of Congress is to unite people… while that of the opposition is to divide,” she said recently, repeating her party’s line that the BJP promotes communalism for political gain and will threaten social peace if elected.
But if we go through the sequence of events leading to barb that BJP is communal, one realises that Priyanka’s direct confrontation with Modi came about after his repeated allegations that her husband, Robert Vadra made a vast fortune through illicit land deals that were permitted to him in states like Haryana where the Congress is in power. Priyanka reacted saying her family was being insulted and defamed, and she would not as Vadra’s wife allow this. That was the start of the verbal feud.
Modi and the BJP countered that Sonia aided and Rahul Gandhi served as enabler for Mr Vadra’s business interests. But Priyanka without explaining anything about BJP charges has been hitting Modi right and left. A few retired bureaucrats praising her courage said she changed the paradigm of the election. She was brought in late otherwise she could have made things difficult for the BJP. She has forced Modi to reset the agenda of his campaign. He has forgotten to talk about development and focuses on Vadra.
THE REAL PANIC-STRICKEN RATS
Priyanka Vadra needs to be a little more careful with her similes and analogies and should firmly tell her speech writers that their flights of fancy have crashed completely. Having been inducted at this late stage to take over the floundering Congress campaign from her mentally-disadvantaged sibling, she probably thinks that it is wise to aim a few barbs and fire a few salvos at the BJP-NDA camp, said a commentator.
“The way the Grand Old Party is organised these days, it is safe to assume that the entire cadre has no idea about what they should be speaking and writing. And they certainly do not have the marbles to talk frankly to the Family to advise them of the pitfalls of unintelligent rhetoric.
“It is bad enough to have been given a bandwagon and platform that are completely devoid of principles, ethics, track-record and commitment. What is worse is that the so-called think-tank of the Congress also comprises sub-standard specialists, who think that being clever in wordplay is good enough to convince the electorate. Therefore, the salvo that PV fired on the April 27 about the BJP running around like panic-stricken rats is a classic case of a boomerang that will decapitate the 24 Akbar Road lot.”
A commentator said research shows that rats are creatures that Priyanka Vadra’s family should be very familiar with. “We are not talking here about ordinary rodents. The rat analogy is very relevant in the case of the First Family and I will show why. This is because Stefano Maino, the late father of the matriarch, Sonia Gandhi, the UPA chairperson, was an unrequited fascist, whose numerous party colleagues in Italy, along with thousands of Nazi war criminals from all over Europe, used the infamous “rat line”, set up by senior figures in the Vatican, to escape justice and run away to South America.
These were the real panic-stricken rats. (VD)
But Priyanka’s new place at the heart of the Congress campaign has raised questions whether she is eclipsing her brother, who is the Congress frontman for the election. The BJP says her star-turn proves that her mother and brother have failed to deliver an effective campaign.
In reality, Priyanka has replaced her brother Rahul in the headlines with her attacks on Modi. Yet she came in too late and that too in a limited role to rescue the party from a humiliating rout. The financial dealings of her husband have given the BJP a new opportunity to hammer away at its anti-corruption message after the Congress-led coalition’s two scandal-plagued terms in office. In a video released over the weekend, titled “Damaad Shree” (the son-in-law), the BJP demanded an explanation on how Mr Vadra has configured a real estate portfolio worth crores over the past five years. The video showed a well-dressed Mr Vadra working out, contrasting that with poor farmers whose land he bought (BJP’s sharpest attack ever on Robert Vadra).
Priyanka has sounded the death-knell of the politician Rahul. And with Sonia rather unwell, Priyanka would be the only survivor. But does she have the maturity and stamina to stitch together the fragments of the Congress Party?
By Vijay Dutt