Priyanka’s Absence Will Affect Sonia-Rahul’s Electoral Chances
The 50-odd miles between Sonia Gandhi’s Raibareli and Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi have never appeared any distance to the voters of these two constituencies of Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi, daughter, sister and above all the poll manager, has walked from one constituency to the other with ease and élan, managing the elections of her mother and brother with total dedication. Priyanka has nurtured these constituencies well, making frequent visits, interacting with local Congressmen, trying to read the pulse of the people. Her dynamic personality and political acumen has been compared innumerable times with her grandmother Indira Gandhi. She has bound together the voters with her assuring presence and they have in turn showered all affection and their mandate, making the number one political family of Indian politics. Voters of these two star constituencies have remained loyal to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the picture of the Nehru-Gandhi family has remained intact. Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to Delhi. In the 2009 elections, the Congress won 21 seats, and the Bharatiya Janata Party 10.
A smiling Sonia flanked by Priyanka and Rahul has made a picture perfect entry into the district so many times in the past elections. Son-in-law Robert Vadra has also lent his face to this family group from time to time ever since his marriage to Priyanka in 1997. But this time, when Sonia came to Raibareli on April 2 to file her nomination papers, Rahul was the only family member, who accompanied her. A confident Rahul, Congress’ virtual prime ministerial candidate, in the driving seat, drove Sonia to the Collectorate. While rose petals were showered on Sonia’s cavalcade all through the 20-km stretch from Fursatganj airstrip to the Collectorate, queries about Priyanka’s absence kept doing the rounds both among the masses and the classes.
Red-faced party functionaries tried to play down Priyanka’s absence, explaining that she was unwell and that Robert Vadra had stayed back to tend to her. Few believed the story, especially the media, which has long debated over why Rahul, not Priyanka, has been handed the political baton by Sonia, when it has been evident to even the so-called common man on the street that Priyanka is far more competent to handle the politically legacy of her great grandfather than brother Rahul. Sonia’s recent illness had in fact made Priyanka play a more active role in these constituencies in the last few months and Congress loyalists had hoped that this might mean Priyanka getting into direct politics.
In fact, reports about her contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had even been doing the rounds. Her presence at AICC vice president Rahul’s residence on January 7 this year, when a high-level political meeting was taking place, where senior party leaders such as Ahmad Patel, Janardan Dwivedi and half a dozen general secretaries were present, had hyped speculations about her direct entry into the political arena. It is thus clear that Priyanka’s presence and absence both make news.
While some Congressmen attribute Priyanka’s absence to differences within the family, others say that this time the Congress strategy is to keep husband Vadra at bay as his alleged involvement in scams may affect the voters’ mind. But the AICC office in Uttar Pradesh is confident that Priyanka controls the reigns as tightly as she did before.
“Soniaji will visit Raibareily for one day before polling, wherein she will address two rallies, and Priyankaji will be campaigning for her and will give five days each to Raibareli and Amethi,” informed Satyadev Tripathi, chairman, communication department, AICC.
Congress supporters and anti-Modi groups would like to believe that all is well within the Nehru-Gandhi family. For, it is true that it has not been the big welfare programmes of the Congress that include the National Food Security Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, known as NREGA, which have made people vote for the Congress but largely the Nehru-Gandhi family’s charisma that has made it the first political family of India.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow