Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra is finally coming out of the self-imposed shadows ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress is eyeing a third term. To script the Congress’ success, Gandhi-Vadra is reportedly taking on larger roles in the party.
Rumours are doing the rounds in Indian media circles and political fraternity that Gandhi-Vadra is not only planning the Congress’ political campaign strategy, but she has also been managing the media for her brother Rahul Gandhi.
The rumours were fuelled by media reports that the 42-year-old Gandhi scion recently chaired a meeting of top Congress leaders to help fine-tune the party’s strategies for the polls, identifying the key campaigners and chalking out the election and media campaigns for Rahul, who took over as Vice-President of the party in January 2013.
This is in complete contrast to her earlier forays into politics. Despite growing demand from party cadres that she be given more proactive roles, Gandhi-Vadra has consciously stayed away from the limelight. She carries the charisma of her late grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but has been active in the party’s works only in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Congress’ traditional bastions.
In fact, there is a strong resemblance between the Gandhi-Vadra and her grandmother not just in terms of their appearance, their choice of saris or their gait, but in their toughness. Gandhi-Vadra naturally has political views and remains in constant touch with party workers, but despite growing demands, had declared her desire to stay away.
But now, Gandhi-Vadra is said to be writing the speeches of her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul. It was reported that Rahul’s speech at the January 17 AICC session – considered to be one of his best so far – was prepared in consultation with Gandhi-Vadra.
She is also said to have taken charge of backroom management of Rahul Gandhi’s campaign. With Rahul as the face of Congress in the 2014 polls, Gandhi-Vadra’s task becomes all the more important, clearly being aware of the media’s impact on any crucial poll.
Her present entry has again boosted the morale of Congress workers, who believe this will benefit the party as well, undoubtedly, Gandhi-Vadra is more media savvy and an effective communicator than most of Congress’ big guns. Her tough and no-nonsense attitude can further work in the favour of the Congress. She has in the past shown capacity to sway votes and determine the electoral fortunes of candidates.
If one may recollect, a single emotional speech by Gandhi-Vadra in the 1999 Parliamentary elections changed the tide in Rae Bareli, where her estranged uncle and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Arun Nehru, was pitted against Gandhi family loyalist Satish Sharma.
At that particular public rally, she had asked voters how they could allow Nehru to enter Rae Bareli. He had betrayed her father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, she reminded voters. That speech changed the mood in Rae Bareli. Nehru, who was the frontrunner until then, was trounced in the elections.
In fact, she has been such an asset for the Congress party that in the 2007 Assembly elections, when she looked after campaigning in 10 constituencies that come under Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Congress bagged seven. This, despite the fact that the party’s presence from Uttar Pradesh was virtually erased.
The Financial Times had predicted in 2012 that Gandhi-Vadra would withdraw from the politics until the 2014 elections, and quoted those ‘closest to her’ as saying that it was only a matter of time before she bursts onto the political stage as a contender.
Therefore, today her entry is expected to give the Congress’ poll prospects a shot in the arm. Gandhi-Vadra’s appeal is enhanced by the fact that she has stayed away from politics. She has said in the past that she likes her ordinary life, reading, studying and looking after her children. So, it is believed that her larger role now could help the Congress look younger and more dynamic.
What such efforts may do is to take her out of Rae Bareli and Amethi, and there is a possibility of Gandhi-Vadra embarking on a nationwide campaign for the Congress. There also exists a possibility that Gandhi-Vadra might even replace Sonia Gandhi in the Rae Bareli constituency as a representative of the Congress and contest in the Lok Sabha polls.
She may have struggled since 2004 to decide whether she wanted to enter politics, but one thing’s for certain, given the anti-incumbency that the Congress will be battling in 2014, it’s unlikely that Gandhi-Vadra’s campaigning can make things worse for them.
No wonder, Gandhi-Vadra has often been described as the Congress’ Brahmastra – the ultimate weapon in Hindu mythology. The Brahmastra was a weapon that assured its wielder victory, but one which he could use only once. The power of the Brahmastra lay in its strategic deployment. It remains to be seen, and the Congress cadres are waiting in keen anticipation, when the full power of this Brahmastra is unleashed.