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Hope Priyanka campaigns outside Amethi, Rae Bareli.
– Ghulam Nabi Azad, India Today
The clamour for Priyanka Gandhi to come to the forefront is gaining traction. “Priyanka lao, Congress bachao” — has been the refrain among Congress workers in Uttar Pradesh for quite some time now.
Of late, many well-wishers of the Congress in the media have also joined the chorus or been co-opted to endorsing the prescription. Therefore, Azad’s statement is no surprise and is part of a carefully crafted “soft launch” strategy to use a marketing parlance. Yet, it is loaded with presumptions. Let us examine.
It is believed Priyanks made Rahul agree to that disastrous interview with Arnab Goswami.
Very little is known about Priyanka Gandhi, not just to the general public, but also to large sections of Congressmen and leaders — beyond her stunning looks, charming smile, elegant cotton saris and hair-style that reminds people of her grandmother. The rest are largely impressions gathered from snippets on TV and occasional crisp sound bites — mostly while campaigning for her mother or brother in the family constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli.
Beyond this, her rare extended interaction with the press and public was in an interview with a high-profile news anchor some years back, which not many would have watched given the paltry viewership of English news channels in India. I remember it for two revelations. First, that she owes her excellent Hindi to Mrs Teji Bachchan — mother of Amitabh Bachchan. It was, perhaps, the only acknowledgement in many years by any Gandhi about the contribution of the Bachchans to their family. Second, her remark about why she takes her children along on constituency tours. This, for me, was a clear indication that she wants her children to also join the family political enterprise.
Everything else is largely speculation, calibrated leaks or carefully planted seeds. For example, it is said that she is a great cook and the evidence cited is the samosas and idlis she serves to the staff in her political secretariat (that could well have been made by her kitchen help or easily ordered in from Sukh Sagar).
Not much is known about her political acumen — except that she is a key member of the Gandhi family council.
It is generally believed she was the one who made Rahul Gandhi agree to that disastrous interview with Arnab Goswami on Times Now — which, by popular consensus, was the last nail in the coffin of Congress campaign for 2014 elections. If that is correct, one cannot give her high scores for political judgment and media strategy.
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There are other rumours, or shall we say gossip — about her temper, mood swings and arrogance — but few dare speak of them above hushed tones.
Though it is said that, there is nothing “private” about public personalities, it would not be proper to talk about her personal life. But since she has given no definitive indication of her aversion to entering politics — it is not unfair for us to expect her to clarify her position on various allegations against the family.
Here, one is making a distinction advisedly between “family” (sasuraal) and “paternal family” (maaika) as is the custom of this country. Like she asserts with a great deal of justifiable pride, “Main Rajiv Gandhi ki beti hoon” — one would have liked to hear her say: “Robert Vadra mera pati hain” (not “Main Robert Vadra ki patni hoon” or “Main is ghar ki bahu hoon”,feminists take note) — as per Indian tradition, which the Gandhi family avers by. While Sonia Gandhi takes every opportunity to remind us she is the “daughter-in-law” of the Gandhis, we have not heard Priyanka make any such claims about being a “Vadra bahu”.
So far, there is not much of empirical evidence available on her political fungibility, except that she displays streaks of Indira Gandhi — that can be good or bad, depending on which traits one is alluding to. If by any chance, she has traces of the Emergency avatar of her grandmother, or the 1984 riots image of her father, then there is enough reason for the country to worry.
Therefore, for the present, it has got to be a pure leap of faith for Congressmen, Congress supporters, Gandhi family retainers and fan clubs alike — banking entirely on her dynastic credentials and charisma.
Originally published at +DailyO India Today