Could it be Priyanka in 2019?

The worst-kept se­cret in the AICC is that many se­nior mem­bers want Priyanka Gandhi to lead the Grand Old Party to re­vive its for­tunes. But will she take the plunge?

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - CL MANOJ

As a pall of gloom and de­spair de­scended on the head­quar­ters of the Congress af­ter the Modi wave crushed In­dia’s Grand Old Party, a mot­ley group of “Priyanka Gandhi fans” started chant­ing “Bring Priyankaji, save then­ation”.On­thisFri­day,pos­si­bly the dark­est day in the party’s his­tory, this brief act of slo­gan shout­ing rep­re­sented the bold­est pub­lic ex­pres­sion of lack of con­fi­dence in the lead­er­ship of Rahul Gandhi. The worst-kept se­cret in the cor­ri­dors of the of­fice of the All In­dia Congress Com­mit­tee (AICC) is that given a choice, many oc­cu­pants of the Congress’ in­ner­cham­bers would hap­pily join that cho­rus for Priyanka Gandhi, es­pe­cially af­ter the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence they have had with Rahul Gandhi’s style of func­tion­ing dur­ing the past five years, first in his ca­pac­ity as an AICC gen­eral sec­re­tary and then as the vice-pres­i­dent-cum de facto leader. Yet, given that the Gand­his — mother, son and daugh­ter — are an ex­tremely close knit fam­ily, and be­cause of Priyanka’s seem­ing com­mit­ment to do any­thing to en­cour­age her brother’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, not many among the top lead­ers of the Congress think she would do any­thing that would re­motely amount to en­cour­ag­ing regime change. Priyanka Gandhi is also ex­tremely sen­si­tive, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior Congress leader, to any talk of sib­ling ri­valry be­tween her and Rahul—any­such­per­cep­tion­is­rapidly squelched — so it is ex­tremely un­like­lythat­shewil­len­cour­agethe clam­our call­ing for her ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the party at this stage. Given the Congress is at its low­est ebb and is fac­ing an ex­tremely for­mi­da­ble ri­val in Modi, it may not also be wise to un­leash, and ex­haust, per­haps the only card – Priyanka – the Congress has at this mo­ment. Re­ports that Modi has cho­sen to take oath as Prime Min­is­ter on May 21, the death an­niver­sary of Ra­jiv Gandhi, has made the Congress un­easy about the sort of chal­lenge they will be con­fronted with in the next five years. Al­ready, there is a buzz in Delhi’s po­lit­i­cal­cir­clesthattheBJPregime would also keep ‘the Robert Vadra card’, in re­serve as a counter to the Congress’ po­ten­tial Priyanka card. “Priyankaji has taken a de­ci­sion to work and cam­paign for the party only in Ame­thi and Rae­bareli. It is true the whole na­tion watched when she cam­paigned in these two states. But, it is en­tirely up to Priyankaji to de­cide whether she should take a more ac­tive role in thep­arty,”AICCGen­er­alSec­re­tary Shakheel Ahamed told ET. But­manyCon­gresslead­er­s­think, Priyanka “has a nat­u­ral f lair”, un­like her brother, for pol­i­tics. “Priyankaji en­joys in­ter­act­ing with the party work­ers, she ex­udes charm, charisma and con­fi­dence un­like Rahulji who is more re­served,and­whowouldbe­moreat home away from pub­lic glare,” said a CWC mem­ber. “Priyankaji has the in­spir­ing qual­i­ties of Indi­raji while Rahulji has more the in­no­cence of Ra­jivji,” he added.

In fact it was Priyanka who took the ini­tia­tive just be­fore the be­gin­ning of the cam­paign to act as a bridge be­tween the Congress’ sea­soned lead­ers and Rahul Gandhi. “The bit­ter truth is that for many years when Rahulji should have leading the Congress charge against Modi’s chal­lenge, un­for­tu­nately, he and the so-called Team Rahul were more busy in trig­geringacivil­wara­gain­st­theCongress


Congress in­sid­ers say Priyanka is ex­tremely sen­si­tive to any talk of sib­ling ri­valry be­tween her and Rahul, and any such per­cep­tion is rapidly squelched es­tab­lish­ment, thereby bring­ing com­plete po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis in the party. It was Priyankaji who stepped in to re­vive that co-or­di­na­tion right be­fore the be­gin­ning of the elec­tion cam­paign,” said an­other party leader.

“So­ni­aji made her po­lit­i­cal de­but when the Congress was out of power and in trou­ble. She leant and es­tab­lished her lead­er­ship through strug­gle be­fore the Congress won the polls in 2004. Rahulji made his de­but when the Congress was in power and he and his team mem­bers such as Jairam Ramesh, G Mo­han Gopal, Kan­ishk Singh and oth­ers had the lib­erty and lux­ury to carry out ex­per­i­ments from the cozy com­fort of power. He will face the real test of lead­er­ship from now, un­der the Modi regime,” said an AICC func­tionary. Many in the Congress feel the im­me­di­ate re­sponse of Team Rahul would be to put up a brave front by in­di­cat­ing its de­ter­mi­na­tion “to go ahead with or­ga­ni­za­tional re-struc­tur­ing and re­forms”. But not many Congress lead­ers are op­ti­mistic about Team Rahul’s abil­ity to deliver in Op­po­si­tion what it could not do with all the trap­ping of power for the past five years. These lead­ers think, at some stage, Priyanka Gandhi will have to step in to try and save what­ever is left of the “Rahul-led Congress”. Asked what role she fore­sees for Priyanka Gandhi in the fu­ture, Priyanka Chaturvedi, a mem­ber of ‘the Rahul bri­gade’ told ET, “Well, I can’t say what Priyankaji will de­cide in the fu­ture. It is up to her”. Asked fur­ther what she thought about the fall-out of Rahul Gandhi’s ex­per­i­ments within the Congress, she merely said, “well, we have to an­a­lyse the whole thing now. I think, the gen­er­a­tional shift in the party and the chal­lenge of fac­ing the elec­tions all got mixed up”. A hor­ri­ble mix-up, most in the Rahul Gandhi-led party would pri­vately say.

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