Priyanka Gandhi hints she may contest from Varanasi: Surprise an important weapon in her armoury

AICC general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is giving little or no hint whether she will be contesting the Lok Sabha election 2019. When Priyanka made a formal entry in politics in January 2019, she had ruled herself out of an electoral contest.

Two months later, she was heard telling local media at Rae Bareili, "If my party asks me to contest the polls, I will definitely do so. But my personal wish is to work organising the party as a lot of work needs to be done," and added, "I have told party workers that it is very important you campaign properly this election. You should go to each and every house, and tell people that this election is to save the nation. India should win this election, not Rahul Gandhi."

The thrust on "nation winning elections" indicates Priyanka's priorities and tells a story that she is willing to go to any length to prevent BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi returning to power with ease. Modi factor was a reason for Priyanka to over-rule herself on the issue of joining politics. Priyanka had told journalist Barkha Dutt in 2009, "… I'm very clear I don’t want to be in politics. I’m very happy living my life the way I am. I think there are certain aspects of politics which I’m just not suited to."

 Priyanka Gandhi hints she may contest from Varanasi: Surprise an important weapon in her armoury

File photo of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi. AFP

Ten years later, sources close to Priyanka have said that she is not averse to the idea of contesting from Varanasi if it means checking and engaging Modi in the temple town. The outcome of Varanasi will be keenly watched but in immediate sense, Priyanka’s presence may force Modi to spend a lot more time in his parliamentary constituency. With Modi as a star campaigner for the BJP for all over India, the Congress hopes to make some gains with his Varanasi pre-occupation. If the prime minister decides to contest from another parliamentary seat away from Uttar Pradesh, the move will bring some psychological advantage to an otherwise beleaguered Congress.

This is not to say that a final decision has been taken about fielding Priyanka from Varanasi where voting is scheduled on 19 May. Congress managers are keeping this issue hanging till the last moment. They are also monitoring how the election campaign will shape up in the next few weeks from now. Modi's blitz campaign has been a quite a hit, but Priyanka could be Congress' answer to it.

For Congress, Priyanka is a harbinger of hope and continuity. So far, barring the likes of Tom Vaddakan, there have not been major defections from the grand old party. In 2014, a number of senior party leaders, including Krishna Tirath, Choudhury Birender Singh, Satpal Maharaj and Rao Inderjit Singh, had switched sides.

Gandhis have led the Congress for 59 years since the independence. As a consequence, Congresspersons invariably look up to Gandhi family members as unquestionable leaders and in return, expect electoral success. It is worth noting that from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira, Rajiv to Sonia, no member of the Gandhi family has failed or abruptly opted out of politics. Rahul and, now Priyanka, have to live with this illusion of grandeur and prove political instincts of Congressmen right.

As campaigning peaks, the Congress has unprecedented presence of three members of the family slugging it out in open. The realistic target is a three digit figure in Lok Sabha, up from 44 in 2014. The idea is to cross the 100-mark on its own as it gives the Congress a foothold in national politics, regardless of who rules Delhi. Sheer survival is at play and once the task is achieved, 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, 2024 Lok Sabha Election will be other important destinations. This prioritisation was evident when a cheeky camera recorded Priyanka’s conversation with a party worker in Amethi yesterday.

She was heard asking party workers in Amethi about poll preparations, "Is waale ki nahin, 2022 waale ki (not this one, for 2022)."

The momentum for 2022 will depend largely on Congress performance in 2019, a reality that Priyanka cannot escape. An electoral contest is her first agniparikasha that she can not escape, say a large number of partymen from Uttar Pradesh.

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Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 12:17:48 IST