Goodbye Rahul, Hello Priyanka

Goodbye Rahul, Hello Priyanka

VINOD MATHEWUpdated: Tuesday, June 18, 2024, 09:20 AM IST
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Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra | Photo: Twitter Image

Those four words encapsulate the essence, the emotions that grip the Wayanad voters, who it could be argued, have reasons to feel let down by their elected Parliamentarian’s firm decision to cut ties with them. Because, what they stand to lose on the swings, they are surely going to regain in the roundabouts. And, to be fair to the people of Wayanad, they would like to believe that at least Priyanka Vadra would stop using their constituency as a fall-back option.

It is not as if Priyanka is an unknown commodity for them. Sure, she did turn up while Rahul filed his nomination and then turned up once to fill in for her brother during the 2024 election campaign. Perhaps what they remember more vividly goes back five years. The year was 2019. The place, Wayanad. And the occasion. The Lok Sabha elections.

It was towards the fag end of the campaign period, either the second or the third week of April. All of Kerala was on an adrenaline trip about Rahul Gandhi contesting from the state. Speculation was rife whether he would retain Wayanad or Amethi in the ensuing weeks. Many, at least within the Congress party, spoke in hushed tones about the future Prime Minister of India and the connection he was forging with Kerala. Well, we all know, who the joke was on, once the results were out.

As the makeshift media manager for Rahul Gandhi’s campaign, it was my job to give pointers to his political managers regarding what could possibly be those stand-out stories that would connect with the electorate. What was on the cards was the crafting of a `spontaneous’ connection that had more of a personalized angle to it. What I remember is it was Priyanka who made that recommended outreach and not Rahul. Perhaps, she had more time at her disposal or she was deemed to have the ability to carry it off more naturally than her brother.

Those were the days when there was an on-and-off buzz about why Priyanka was not entering active politics and how she reminded one of her grandmother and so on. I still remember the sense of anticipation that gripped nearly a hundred thousand people who thronged a dusty maidan in Nilambur in Malappuram district, but a part of the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency when Priyanka made a brief appearance.

The multitude had started gathering from many parts of north Kerala at least three to four hours in advance. The mighty roar that erupted once she touched down was easily many decibels more than the noise created by her chopper. And each sentence she uttered was received with a lusty roar of approval.

I remember there was this elderly lady named Rosy who had approached me saying how she as a young girl had met and had a brief conversation with Rajiv Gandhi when he visited the same town many decades ago. She was keen to meet Priyanka with this story but managed to get through to Rahul for a deja vous kind of meeting, topped by a photo op. Rosy went on to campaign for Rahul's 2024 election using her 2019 photo with him, saying who she was voting for, how about you?

One remembers that Rahul had promised in 2019 that he was forging a life-long bond with the people of Wayanad. The cynical Malayali has already started pointing out that while a life sentence lasts 14 years, how come Rahul’s life-long courtship with the people of Wayanad has lasted only five years? Surely, by successfully convincing Priyanka to make her long anticipated electoral debut from Wayanad, he is cementing his resolve about the life-long connect, after all.

Vinod Mathew was Resident Editor, The Indian Express, Pune, and New Indian Express, Kerala. The views expressed are his own.

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