“I’m Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter,” retorted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra when asked to respond to Narendra Modi’s interview to Doordarshan in which he said that she was like his daughter.
Modi’s comment was edited out of the abridged interview aired by the public broadcaster. But that’s a different story. Her campaign restricted to Amethi and Rae Bareli, Priyanka’s reply to the BJP leader was as matter-of-fact as it was political. Late Rajiv Gandhi is missed by the electorate in the two constituencies. She used Modi’s remark to invoke her father’s legacy.
Not a riveting orator, Priyanka is a deft conversationalist with an ability to simplify complex issues. Her comment that India needed a leader with a large heart (dariya dil) rather than one with a chest measuring 56 inches was a measured riposte that worked against Modi.
Nor was she offensive while making light of the BJP leader’s “yeh dil mange more” exhortation to voters and his penchant for alliteration: “He keeps asking for more…talks like he’s addressing students in a primary class…about time he spoke in a manner befitting the post for which he aspires…”
In contrast, Priyanka’s defence of her husband Robert Vadra came in the backdrop of her brother Rahul’s “toffee model” jibe to bring Modi’s ‘capitalist cronies’ into the electoral discourse. The purpose apparently was to focus on the Adani group, allegedly favoured by the Gujarat CM, to counter the BJP’s campaign against her husband’s “questionable” business dealings in Haryana and Rajasthan under the Congress’s rule.
Time will tell whether the strategy works or not. But rather than running away from the controversy, Priyanka decided to take it head-on. The sharper the attacks on her, the stronger she became like Indira Gandhi, she said.
Comparisons are odious. Old-timers see flashes of Indira in Priyanka. But her one-liners compare better with the direct eloquence of Golda Meir of Israel, who’s credited with such gems as: “Don’t be so humble, you aren’t that great.”
Priyanka’s reaction to Modi likening her to a daughter he never had fell in that category. And the “darya dil” dart she tossed at him bore the echo of another Golda quote: “If only political leaders would allow themselves to feel, as well as to think, the world might be a happier place.”
It doesn’t directly fit the Priyanka-Modi narrative. But one can’t but help recall the Israeli leader’s witty prognosis of Henry Kissinger, who brokered talks between Israel and Egypt in the 1970s. When told by Kissinger that he was an American first, then the secretary of state and then a Jew, Golda said that was fine since, in Hebrew, people read from right to left.