The Rahul idea is dead, Cong's last 2014 hope is Priyanka

Here is a question for all of us, including Congress baiters: Given a choice between Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka, who would you vote for?

Though the Congress does not believe in internal democracy, if it decides to hold a US-style primary between the two siblings, the result wouldn’t shock anybody. Just speaking to Congress workers, supporters and leaders—an Arvind Kejriwal style quick referendum—establishes beyond doubt that Priyanka would decimate her brother.

Before the argument is trashed and its proponent is ridiculed as a dynasty stooge, let us look at Priyanka through a Congress supporter’s eyes.

 The Rahul idea is dead, Congs last 2014 hope is Priyanka

Priyanka Vadra is the last hope left to the Congress: AFP

After the drubbing in the Vidhan Sabha polls, even die-hard Congress fans have accepted that the party will be trounced in the Lok Sabha election. Most of them are convinced that its tally would be in double figures. The game for them has ended in a humiliating defeat months before the announcement of schedule.

When the campaign begins in March, when the polling begins in April-May, the effete, demoralized, surrendered Congress workers and supporters will not have a single reason to participate. The Congress election rallies are likely to be huge disasters and its polling booths remain frighteningly empty.

Given the option, Congress supporters would have taken some drastic measures to avert the looming catastrophe. They would have pulled down Manmohan Singh, banned his participation in press conferences, expelled the likes of Digvijaya Singh and sacked Rahul for incompetence and repeated failure. But their problem is: What next?

Let us accept this. The Congress is a dynasty-based party. A leader from outside the family would never be acceptable to its cadres and 10 Janpath darbaris. There is every possibility that the party would disintegrate and disappear in the absence of a family member to hold it together.

So, what option does a Congress worker have today? Only Priyanka.

Priyanka’s advantage is that she is everything that Rahul isn’t. Unlike Rahul who resembles a confused, bumbling student destined to fail every political test, Priyanka seems to have some of the traits required to succeed. She is seen as more charismatic and energetic, an extrovert and somebody who can connect with the masses effortlessly. Moreover, she reminds many of Indira Gandhi, every Congress supporter’s eternal deity and ultimate symbol of popularity. Apart from the resemblance to her grandmother, Priyanka has no other baggage from the past.

If Priyanka enters the fray or plays an active role in the poll campaign, she would give the Congress worker a reason to get involved in the election. Her presence would attract people to party rallies and solve the biggest problem the Congress is facing: the absence of a star campaigner and a leader who people are willing to listen.

Don’t the Congress and Sonia Gandhi know this? Aren’t they aware that the comatose party workers can be stirred into action only by giving them a leader who is not destined to be a disaster? Going by the Congress culture, history and philosophy, there could be just two reasons for keeping Priyanka confined to the role of an extra so far.

First, she is not interested in politics. If that is the case, nothing can save Rahul from leading his party to an embarrassing defeat. The other reason could be that Rahul was allowed the first shot at the family legacy. If that was the logic behind keeping Priyanka away from active politics, her entry in the ring is inevitable.

Honest introspection within the Gandhi household would have revealed by now that if Priyanka has to enter politics, the time is now. The Congress is likely to get beaten so badly that Priyanka may not get another opportunity in several years. Or, perhaps, never.

Yes, there will be vicious attacks on her husband. The opposition would put her life and her husband’s business under the finest microscope. But even if she stays away, Robert Vadra will continue to remain an issue in the election.

Yes, there will be comparisons with her brother. The spotlight would move away from Rahul and focus on Priyanka. But this comparison could help the Congress by conveying to voters that there is a better alternative within the party.

Comparing today’s Congress with the party in 1981 would be apt. That year, Sanjay Gandhi, his mother’s heir apparent, died in an accident. Indira had no option but to anoint her other son as the successor. Her decision helped both the Congress and the dynasty stay alive for another three decades.

Sonia and her advisors should understand that Rahul as an idea has died in Indian politics. It is time to look at the only other option.

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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2014 07:54:59 IST