Will Priyanka Gandhi join active politics?

By Manisha Singh | Last Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2012 - 19:55
Manisha Singh

The second born of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has been a point of debate and speculation for years now on whether she will join politics or not and whether she should join politics or not.

Every time Priyanka campaigns for her party, every time that she visits her mother and brother’s constituencies and every time she meets Congress workers, a debate of sorts starts in the media.

It is no secret that a section of the Congress leaders have been pitching for Priyanka to join the party. Some think that she has a natural charisma and the voters connect easily with her, while others compare her to her grandmother in terms of traits and personality, Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. A section of the media also endorses Priyanka joining politics – apart from everything else they feel that she is more accessible to the journalists than her brother Rahul.

So, when Priyanka had a number of meetings with party workers from Amethi including a recent one at 10 Janpath recently, as always it triggered a fresh round of speculation as to whether she would be contesting the 2014 General Elections.

To put conjectures to rest, Priyanka was forced to react, again as always and said that there was nothing new in her interacting with workers in Rae Bareli and Amethi, the constituencies represented by her family in the Lok Sabha.

“I have been doing so since 1991. As there have been organisational issues lately, I will be travelling to Rae Bareli now and then to look into them,” she maintained.

With the scion of the Gandhi family, Rahul, being increasingly seen as a reluctant politician and someone who has really not delivered till now, the growing clamour amongst the Congress cadre for Priyanka to take up a more pro-active role is perhaps understandable.

Rahul has been missing in action since the UP Assembly elections, where in spite of aggressively leading the campaign, the Congress had to bite the dust. The country has not seen much of him since then. People don’t know where he stands on the various issues that are plaguing the country and he has also not come across as an effective orator in Parliament. He has not been seen pitching for his party and fighting for its image; say for example, after the coal block allocations issue took the country by storm which resulted in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament being washed out. Surprisingly, in a departure of sorts, his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi was seen taking the BJP head on and urging her MPs to go all out and fight the Opposition attack. Would it not have done a world of good to Rahul’s image if he had toed his mother’s line?

There is also talk of Rahul not jumping head-on in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, apparently because the party does not want him to be directly pitted against the incumbent Chief Minister Narendra Modi. They feel that by doing so they would be exposing Rahul before the 2014 polls. It is another matter that a diehard politician is one who goes through the drill, the heat and dust and the high and lows of politics – if Rahul is not ready for it yet, then where does that leave the future of the Congress party. Time to look towards Priyanka Gandhi?

And I say Priyanka Gandhi here not because I am a supporter of dynastic politics and a backer of one-family rule. In fact I abhor it. I say this here, purely as an observer of Indian politics, knowing fully well that no one apart from a Gandhi name will be allowed to occupy the top slot, i.e., till the time any member of the family is in the party. This is no secret. If the party is out of power, a Gandhi will be the Congress president, if the party is in power, then also a Gandhi will be at the helm, either by being the Prime Minister or by being the proxy PM, like the Sonia-Manmohan Singh arrangement.

However, in spite of the din surrounding the million dollar question about Priyanka, it is unlikely that she will join active politics and take over the mantle from her mother. That would amount to conceding by the family and the party that Rahul has failed. Also most of the Congress leaders feel that Rahul has not really jumped into the governance of the country and once he does that he may just be able to deliver and provide the much needed oxygen that the party need. Remember, the ‘cameo’ comment by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid to a leading daily.

With talks of Congress more likely than not waiting to be defeated in the 2014 polls, the party cadre knows that Rahul will then have enough time to get his act right by the time the next General Elections take place. They may be hoping that being in the opposition may just make him the dyed-in-the-wool politician that they want Rahul to be. And that he is able to get them back on track the next time around. But there are a lot of ifs and buts here and as they say one never knows what the future holds for you.

In the meanwhile, Priyanka has always constantly been by her mother and brother’s side over the years. Remember when Rahul addressed the media after the UP polls debacle and accepted the responsibility for Congress’ loss in the state, Priyanka was seen waiting patiently for her brother to finish and after he was done she put her arms around him and lead him away inside the house – it was almost as if she was trying to protect him from the harsh realities of the world and bitter truth of electoral politics.

<i>Post Script:</i> Maybe Priyanka Gandhi has the potential to infuse the much needed oxygen that the Congress party need or maybe she doesn’t. Who knows? In the last Assembly elections in UP, the grand old party lost all the five Assembly seats in Sonia Gandhi's constituency and won only two of the five Assembly seats in Amethi, both the places where Priyanka had campaigned aggressively. Well, as they say, like in life, so in politics, there are no guarantees.

First Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012 - 19:55

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