Elections 2014: Can Priyanka Gandhi Vadra make a difference to Congress’ fortunes?

Though one can never predict the outcome of an election result and that too in a country like India, in all likelihood, nothing may be able to save the Congress from an imminent defeat as of now. Not even an aggressive Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has been the one grabbing the headlines in recent times rather than her brother and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of the grand old party’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Priyanka hit the campaign trail late in the day when many parts of the country had already voted to elect a new government. At the same time Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter has limited her campaigning to Rae Bareli and Amethi – her mother and her brother’s constituency. But from the tone and tenor of her public meetings it seems that she has decided to take the main Opposition - the Bharatiya Janata Party - head on and put up a fight or at least a semblance of it.

Thus, it was Priyanka who made an emotional pitch to the voters when she said that she felt sad when her husband Robert Vadra was targeted by the Opposition. And it was Priyanka who raked up the ‘snoopgate’ issue to target BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. Rahul took it up, perhaps emboldened by his sister’s backing, only after Priyanka had used it as an ammunition to hit back at the Gujarat CM.

However, the point is whether she can help Congress win a decent number of seats, if not lead the party to victory. At this stage one can stick his/her neck out and say that it seems unlikely. Firstly, Priyanka entered the election scene when the mood of the country was said to be overwhelmingly anti-Congress. Secondly, she is only campaigning in Gandhi pocket boroughs and is not travelling all over the country.

Moreover, just attacking the BJP and Modi may not be enough. At best it appears pure rhetoric. While it’s okay to say that the BJP is a divisive party, Priyanka also has to talk about ten years of UPA rule and give reasons as to why the people of the country should vote the Congress back to power. And while she has all the rights to mock Modi and call his style dictatorial, she also has to give answers as to whether the government led by Manmohan Singh did not err on the issue of policy matters and governance. And while she is at it she should also tell the people whether there was a dual power centre under Congress’ regime and whether Sonia and Rahul Gandhi undermined the office of the Prime Minister.

At the same time, while asking the people to vote for the country, Priyanka must ask herself as to whether her brother is the right person to lead the country. Together with the above she must also take hard questions from the press over issues of scams and corruption that had plagued the Congress-led UPA government, especially in the second term. Also, when she raises the issue of her husband being targeted by the BJP, she must also tell the people whether Robert Vadra benefited or not from his proximity to the Gandhi family.

Because, in a democracy, the people have a right to seek answers from those they elect to rule them. And when any political party attacks the other, it should also be prepared to answer questions that are and will be thrown at them. This holds true for both the Congress and the BJP.

Meanwhile, the Congress needs to realise that to fall back on a member of a ‘Gandhi’ family to take the party out of the mess that it is in at present will probably do no good, at least in these elections. Surely, Priyanka has no magic wand. And as far as perceptions go, Modi seems to have emerged as the stronger leader compared to Rahul, and so whatever Priyanka says or does now may not impact the outcome of the results on May 16.

As for Priyanka, she too needs to realise that India is not in an era of kingship or feudalism where someone decides to appear once in five years, seek votes and get it. If Priyanka is serious about politics then she has to take it up as a full time job and pursue it relentlessly 24x7. Only then will she get results and only then will the people believe her.

She would also do well to remember that the last time she had campaigned extensively for the Congress was in 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, again in Rae Bareli and Amethi. The Congress lost all the five Assembly seats in Sonia Gandhi`s constituency and won only two of the five Assembly seats in Amethi. Well, as they say, reality bites.