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Opinion| Why Priyanka Gandhi contesting from Varanasi is not a smart idea for the Congress

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has the ability to give back as good as she gets. She proved the ability even before her formal entry into politics this year.

analysis Updated: Mar 31, 2019 16:12 IST
Harinder Baweja
Harinder Baweja
Hindustan Times
Priyanka has the ability to give back as good as she gets. She proved the ability even before her formal entry into politics this year.
Priyanka has the ability to give back as good as she gets. She proved the ability even before her formal entry into politics this year.(Reuters File Photo)
         

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sent ripples across the political spectrum, when on being asked by party workers to contest from her mother Sonia Gandhi’s constituency of Rae Bareli, she said, “Why not Varanasi?”

The riposte came while she was interacting with party workers on March 28. A day later, when asked to clarify if she was keen on fighting from Varanasi, she said, “If the party wants, I am ready to contest from anywhere.”

Priyanka Gandhi may or may not contest a seat, but she must certainly not contest from Varanasi.

Why not, many would ask. Taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be the ultimate battle, the best talking point of the 2019 poll exercise but is that what Priyanka would want? To be pitted against a powerful opponent in a direct contest?

Let’s be clear: Priyanka has been taking him on in every meeting; every rally. She has criticised Modi for his numerous foreign trips, called out the promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh in accounts of citizens as a jumla and even asked if Modi ate biryani in Pakistan. In short, she has been relentless in her attack on Modi.

Priyanka has the ability to give back as good as she gets. She proved the ability even before her formal entry into politics this year. Her riposte to Modi’s RSVP (Rahul, Sonia, Vadra, Priyanka) barb in 2014 comes to mind immediately. “You are not teaching in a primary school, you are addressing the nation. Don’t teach people the English alphabets like RSVP or ABCD,” Priyanka had said then.

Politics, however, is not just about smart quips and ripostes. If Priyanka has formally entered the political arena for good – she took her own time agreeing despite fervent calls from her party in the past – she has to earn her spurs and not be tempted by the prospect of a high-decibel contest that will make Modi spend more time in Varanasi than he ordinarily would. But would she be able to defeat him? Many, including me, would not bet our money on this.

Priyanka draws attention – from political rivals and the media – for being a Gandhi but apart from her extensive campaigns in the family constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli, she still has to prove her political acumen. In 2012, during the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, she promised a score of ten out of ten for the assembly constituencies out of the family borough but ended up with a mere two out of ten.

Sonia Gandhi took on Sushma Swaraj in Bellary in 1999, when she made her political debut, and won, but a Modi-Priyanka battle is unlikely to have the same outcome.

As the general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka has her work cut out for her. She will first have to make sure that the party revives its fortunes in the state where it only managed to win the two family boroughs. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, it won 22 seats but it cannot be sure of its tally this time, given the alliance that Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav have stitched up.

The Congress is looking at forming a government in Uttar Pradesh in 2022 is what party chief Rahul Gandhi had said when his sister took the political plunge. It would be pragmatic for her to not make 2019, and especially a Varanasi contest, her political marker.

First Published: Mar 31, 2019 15:52 IST

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