New Delhi: The inevitable has happened: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (47) has taken a plunge into the cesspool of politics in what could be a defining moment in the run-up to the general election. Thus far, Priyanka had been navigating from the backseat, helping both her mother Sonia and elder brother Rahul; it was a foregone conclusion that she would eventually join politics, only the timing was a matter of speculation.
Politics is all about symbolism and Priyanka stepping out of the shadows and taking charge of eastern UP, from where both Yogi Adityanath and PM Modi will be contesting, is part of the Congress game plan to take the fight right into the enemy camp. Rahul neatly summed up the sentiment when he said the Congress party henceforth will be fighting on the front foot. The announcement on Prinyaka had a sub-plot – the elevation of Madhya Pradesh MP Jyotiraditya Scindia (48) as AICC in-charge of Uttar Pradesh West.
Priyanka, of course, is not exactly a babe in the woods. She has nursed Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies for her mother and brother, assisted Rahul in delicate behind-the-scene negotiations; and, recently, she had a say in all key decisions, including appointment of the three party chief ministers. The Congress leaders have been craving for her entry into politics for more than a decade, particularly because she reminds many of her grandmother and former PM Indira Gandhi, both for her charisma and stunning likeness.
However, there is also a contrarian view that Sonia delayed her entry into politics, lest she overshadows Rahul and relegates him to the periphery. Ironically, Priyanka’s decision was forced by the BJP overplaying its hand and allegedly hounding her husband Robert Vadra in land deals. Party leaders said Priyanka’s entry will galvanise the party rank and file in UP which has been despondent ever since by BSP supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav entered into an alliance.
Rahul, however, made it clear on Wednesday that the Congress is not vying with the Mayawati-Yadav combine and his single-minded pursuit is the ouster of the BJP at the Centre. He even hinted at tactical understanding with the Mayawati-Yadav combine. Priyanka’s appointment underscores the importance the Congress attaches to a state that sends the highest (80) number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. The announcement came just when Rahul was in Amethi on a 2-day visit. Both the appointments, he said, would change the ground realities.
With UP carved out between Priyanka and Scindia, Rahul has packed off general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad (69) to take charge of Haryana with immediate effect. There is speculation that Priyanka may contest the Rae Bareli seat if her mother decides not to seek re-election on account of health considerations, which had also forced her to step down as the party president