Priyanka Gandhi on Monday denied reports she wanted to challenge Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi and was stopped by the party high command, stating her decision not to contest was "personal" and that her family would "wholeheartedly support" her if she ever wanted to.
Priyanka came out with a rare statement to journalists following reports on Monday she was keen to contest as the Congress candidate from Varanasi as she was willing to place a higher principle above the real risk of defeat.
"This certainly is my own personal decision and I will change it only when I feel from within me that I should," she said.
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Priyanka, whose political responsibilities so far have been to manage her brother Rahul and mother Sonia's Lok Sabha election campaigns in family bastions Rae Bareli and Amethi, wanted to fight Modi because the Gujarat chief minister was "bad for the country" and needed to be "stopped", reports had said.
She went on to reinforce her earlier remarks that she wanted to campaign only in Amethi and Rae Bareli.
"I have always said my focus is Amethi and Rae Bareli, that remains unchanged," Priyanka told NDTV.
But, speculation that the Congress is keen on Priyanka playing a bigger role in the party has always been rife.
"My brother, mother and husband (Robert Vadra) would wholeheartedly support me if I ever wanted to (contest)," 42-year-old Priyanka said.
Priyanka, mother of two, admitted that Rahul had on several occasions asked her to take the electoral plunge.
"My brother has expressed to me many times that he thinks I should contest," Priyanka said adding she was not inclined to.
The Congress named local MLA Ajay Rai as the candidate against Modi on April 8 after it had delayed naming one for the Varanasi seat. The five-time MLA had kicked off his campaign with the "local versus outsider" slogan to counter the perceived wave for his rival.
The party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Priyanka has always defined her own political role and will continue to do so.
"I don't think anybody can prevent her and nobody will prevent her from enlarging her role as and when she chooses to play a larger political role in the Indian political spectrum," said Surjewala.
"Priyanka Gandhi, by her own calling, has chosen to work in the constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli," he added.
BJP reacted to the reports and condemned the practice of dynastic politics of the Congress.
"Once the incumbent of the family fails, they won't work to make the party more structured but they will look for alternative solutions within the family. This is the problem with family-driven parties," said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
"Priyanka Gandhi should have contested from Varanasi. Her husband Robert Vadra should have contested from Vadodara and other members of the Congress' family of maladministration, who have run away from elections, should also have contested," BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi added.