Wife Priyanka takes a cal­cu­lated risk on Vadra

The Free Press Journal - - EDIT -

“E very­thing is fair in love and war”, it is said. This rule aptly ap­plies to In­dian pol­i­tics. In the game of po­lit­i­cal war, it seems that ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing around us is fair. So is the en­try of Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra in the arena of pol­i­tics and the ac­tion of the En­force­ment Direc­torate against her hus­band Robert Vadra. Vadra is be­ing called for in­ter­ro­ga­tion by the ED sev­eral times dur­ing the last week and there is ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity of him be­ing sent be­hind the bars af­ter the term of pro­tec­tion that the court has granted to him is ex­pired. Por­tray­ing her con­tro­ver­sial busi­ness­man hus­band Robert Vadra, as a vic­tim of “po­lit­i­cal vendetta” and back­ing him to the hilt is the high­risk strat­egy cho­sen by newly-minted Con­gress “neta” Priyanka. The drama has reached a point of cu­rios­ity as no one knows what would be the fi­nal out­come of this play.

Priyanka is stand­ing by him like a rock. Say­ing that “he is fam­ily and I sup­port my fam­ily”, she dropped him off on first two days at the ED of­fice in Delhi, en­sur­ing that their car jour­ney took over the head­lines, be­fore reach­ing the Con­gress Head Of­fice and tak­ing the charge of the new re­spon­si­bil­ity along with Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia.

With this Fam­ily First ap­proach, “PGV”, as she is re­ferred to by Con­gress lead­ers, has made it clear that she has no ret­i­cence in en­gag­ing with the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against her hus­band as an elec­tion is­sue be­tween the BJP and her party. Em­bar­rassed

“This is our con­sid­ered party strat­egy,” se­nior Con­gress lead­ers openly boast. “It is cer­tainly a change from when we used to call Robert a pri­vate cit­i­zen and yet put up an em­bar­rassed de­fence of him. Priyanka says there should be no squeamish­ness. We should take on the BJP frontally on Robert and all other is­sues. Priyanka’s pol­i­tics is take the bull by the horns. Now even Rahul Gandhi has come around to the same view.” While even the BJP can’t fault the op­tics of a wife of­fer­ing staunch sup­port to her hus­band, the rea­son I say this is a sub­stan­tially risky ap­proach is be­cause Robert is not the kind of fig­ure likely to draw much pub­lic sym­pa­thy.

On the other hand, the anti-cor­rup­tion mantra that Modi used to be­come Prime Min­is­ter has lost much of its sheen, though. He had ex­cited pub­lic imag­i­na­tion by say­ing that he would end cor­rup­tion by set­ting up spe­cial courts for scam­sters and con-men who helped them­selves to pub­lic money, apart from en­sur­ing the re­turn pas­sage of black money from Swiss banks. On Robert, he had promised to jail “damaad-ji” (son-in-law), as he used to with­er­ingly re­fer to Robert in pub­lic meet­ings. None of it hap­pened. In fact, Modi’s show piece cor­rup­tion case, the 2G spec­trum case, col­lapsed in court, with all ac­cused be­ing ac­quit­ted in 2017.

Cu­ri­ously, though, the Con­gress be­lieves that Modi has lost cred­i­bil­ity and the fla­grant abuse of in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents is not be­ing lost on the pub­lic. In­trigu­ingly, Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, of­ten not friendly with the younger Gand­his, and by far the tough­est po­lit­i­cal cus­tomer in the Op­po­si­tion, re­port­edly en­dorsed the Con­gress charge of “po­lit­i­cal vendetta” against Robert on last Tues­day. This sup­port came as she ended a sur­real stand-off with the cen­tre over the CBI mov­ing to question the West Ben­gal top cop over charges that he is con­spir­ing to de­stroy ev­i­dence to pro­tect her and other lead­ers from her party in cases of cor­rup­tion.

Such a di­rect link­ing of arms be­tween Mamta and the Con­gress would have been unimag­in­able even a cou­ple of months ago, but the sys­tem­atic mis­use of the CBI by Modi and his most trusted aide, BJP chief Amit Shah, have block-chained the op­po­si­tion.

A day af­ter Akhilesh Ya­dav and Mayawati an­nounced their game-chang­ing al­liance in the must-get state of Ut­tar Pradesh, raids and cases be­gan to in­tim­i­date both lead­ers. In­ter­est­ingly, those lead­ers who switch to the BJP have their cases mys­te­ri­ously van­ish - wit­ness Mukul Roy who switched from Ma­mata’s Tri­nomool and Hi­manta Biswa Sarma who moved over from the Con­gress. Both were named for al­leged roles in the Saradha chit fund scam, de­clared a Ponzi scheme. Ahead of the Kar­nataka state elec­tion in May last year, the CBI oblig­ingly dropped all charges of il­le­gal min­ing against the con­tro­ver­sial Reddy brothers, can­di­dates of the BJP.

The question is what next for Priyanka? With ev­ery week un­fold­ing new ev­i­dence of the rul­ing party tar­get­ing its po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents us­ing the CBI or ED, the Con­gress plans to milk that as its de­fence. A top Con­gress leader said, “Ev­ery time they will raise Robert, we will raise Rafale.” To en­sure no crossed wires and no par­al­lel “dur­bar”, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi have con­fig­ured a team of aides who have worked with Rahul be­fore. The com­mon link is Kan­ishka Singh who used to han­dle Rahul’s of­fice and has been now work­ing with Priyanka.

Jour­nal­ist-turned-Con­gress­man Ra­jeev Shukla, who has been Priyanka’s Bol­ly­wood out­reach re­source, will also work closely with her. The hope is to get mega-stars in­clud­ing Shah Rukh Khan to cam­paign for the Con­gress. Preeti Sa­hai will con­tinue as be­fore in Priyanka’s of­fice. Ji­ten­dra Singh, who is a close aide of Rahul’s, will also co­or­di­nate with her. Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia, who, apart from Priyanka, is the other Gen­eral Sec­re­tary for UP, will work closely with the sib­lings. Priyanka’s dis­play of sup­port for her hus­band also co­in­cided with her for­mally tak­ing charge of her post. Ahmed Pa­tel, party trea­surer and long-time trusted aide of So­nia Gandhi, has con­stant ac­cess to both her chil­dren and the huge re­spon­si­bil­ity of rais­ing funds to match the BJP. Robert vs Rafale

While Rahul will cam­paign across the coun­try, Priyanka, re­spon­si­ble for the dis­as­trous al­liance with Akhilesh Ya­dav in the last state elec­tion in UP, will con­cen­trate only on the state. Ex­pect fierce at­tacks on Modi from both the Gand­his as the script seems to be Robert ver­sus Rafale. No doubt close on the heels of her of­fi­cial en­try into pol­i­tics, Priyanka has de­cided to play a risky game to stand by her hus­band on one hand and take on Modi and com­pany on the other. Let’s see who wins this game of nerves.

The writer is a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (RS).

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