A day after the departure of Priyanka Gandhi from Rae Bareli — where she spent 48 hours addressing 24 public meetings — a few Congressmen are engaged in an interesting conversation. “She is the Gandhi with guts,’’ says one, adding, “I never thought she would bring up the controversial issue of her husband Robert Vadra.’’ Another says, “She connects instantly with the people. I wish she was campaigning all over India.’’
The Gandhi daughter has stated on record that she is restricting herself to the two family bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi, but make no mistake, even while doing so, Priyanka is addressing voters beyond the two constituencies of central UP. Moreover, she is attacking the Congress’ main political adversary, Narendra Modi, without taking his name even once.
Follow Priyanka through several public meetings, and it becomes more than evident that she is not just a family member campaigning in Rae Bareli and Amethi, where her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi are re-contesting. Listen to her speeches, and it is crystal clear that the content is aimed to hit and hurt the Opposition.
In villages through the Harchandpur and Unchahar assembly segments of Rae Bareli, Priyanka spent less time talking about local development issues and, instead, chose to focus on big ticket ideas that the electorate here is not even familiar with.
The national media descends in large numbers whenever Priyanka lands here and she knows that her message will be relayed in a matter of minutes through outdoor broadcast (OB) vans that follow her motorcade all through the day.
That is exactly what happened two days in a row. Priyanka — not Rahul or even Sonia — made headlines through her references to husband Vadra on day one and through an attack on Modi the next day. “Some leaders are tapping phone calls behind closed doors. Is this how they empower women,’’ she said in an obvious reference to the Snoopgate controversy wherein a woman was being spied on on the orders of the Gujarat government in 2009.
Few in the remote villages of Rae Bareli have even heard of Modi, let alone Snoopgate. Fewer still discussed the content of her speech after she left, but Priyanka had made her point: News channels were instantly discussing her ‘jibe’ at Modi.
And two days in a row, the BJP tasked its spokespersons, Meenakshi Lekhi and Nirmala Sitharaman, to respond to Priyanka’s charges of them “humiliating” her family by using harsh words against her husband and of their leader snooping on women.
The unity of the country and equality are other themes that form the core of Priyanka’s strategy — first honed in the confines of the Congress war room that operates out of Rahul Gandhi’s Tughlak Road residence in Delhi. She is involved with her brother’s all-India campaign and appears to be taking the lead when it comes to attacking Modi and the BJP even though she has chosen to confine herself geographically to Rae Bareli and Amethi.
The question many are asking, however, is — did Priyanka leave it too late? Six of nine phases have after all, already gone to the polls.