New Delhi : It is a measure of the turbulence in the oldest political party of the country. Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka participated in a meeting of senior party leaders, and even without its details filtering out there was wild speculation of her role in the forthcoming general elections.
Party veteran Janardan Dwivedi who is an old hand at dodging questions from the media was badgered by a room full of reporters for nearly 90 minutes, before he came up with a few short sentences. “Priyanka Gandhi is a member of an important political family. Even though she does not take active part in politics, she is an active member and looks after election work at Rae Bareli and Amethi. She has political views, she meets workers and if she meets party leaders, what’s new?” he said and the reporters heaved a sigh of relief.
Notwithstanding Dwivedi’s attempts to play down the significance of Priyanka’s presence at the meeting, within the top echelons of the party hierarchy there is a growing sense of expectation that she would have a larger role in the campaign 2014. A senior general secretary told this paper that clarity would emerge at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee that is scheduled to be held on January 16, a day before the All India Congress Committee meets here for the one-day session.
It was recalled that last January when Rahul Gandhi was named the vice-president the decision was announced at the CWC itself. “So, if there are any big decisions concerning Rahul or Priyanka, or both of them, these would come at the CWC,” he added.
After the recent rout of the party in the four state assembly elections, there is widespread demoralization in its rank and file and growing concern that Rahul Gandhi at the helm of affairs of a national election campaign cannot deliver success for the party. The party activists do believe that Priyanka, who has an uncanny resemblance with her grandmother and former Prime Minister India Gandhi, can bolster the party’s sagging election effort.
Dwivedi, party president’s political adviser Ahmed Patel and media department general secretary Ajay Maken were among the participants at the meeting. There were indications that the election campaigns of both the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son as well deputy Rahul were discussed at the meeting. Another item on the agenda was the appointment of a few more spokespersons, as there is an appreciation that the party is losing heavily in the battle of perception.
That the battle of perception is occupying the mind space of the party leadership is also established by its decision to hire professional public relations consultants — Burson Marsteller and Dentsu — to bolster the party’s image. Another market survey agency too has been hired for the next general elections, and the party is expected to catch up on the social media as well.