Will Priyanka Gandhi allow herself to become the pawn in the great Congress game of Politics? Will she or won’t she?
This is the million dollar question that was tormenting minds of Congressmen for over a decade. Well, she inherited the looks of her grandma. It still remains a fact Indira Gandhi is still considered one of the most powerful prime ministers India has seen so far. Though Indira imposed emergency and creating, nurturing eliminating terrorists, her steel will in creating Bangladesh and ruthlessness in dealing with opponents even if they are her own, separates her from other leaders. Whether one likes her or not, one cannot ignore her. If Narasimha Rao was famous for using his soft skills to achieve whatever he wanted, Indira used force and power to take what she wanted.
No wonder, Congress feels Priyanka Gandhi, with striking resemblance to her Grandma is the much needed ‘Sanjivani’ to revitalise the party that is in Coma ever since Rahul Gandhi started playing the lead role. And, they were not wrong. The way Indians idolise achievers, and there are still many in India that vote for ‘Gandhi’ name, with her winsome smile and quick wit, Priyanka would be the game changer for Congress.
It doesn’t take to be Einstein to recognize this fact. Rightly so, Prashant Kishor wanted Priyanka Gandhi to take charge of Uttar Pradesh elections. To exploit the weight that Gandhi name still carries around, he wanted Rahul Gandhi to become the chief minister candidate. His both suggestions of course were rejected. As Congress rejected the idea of Rahul Gandhi scaling the political career ladder through state politics a decade ago, when Nitish Kumar suggested so, that option is not an option to be considered for Congress, lest it would expose a decade of wasted time.
The other option of bringing Priyanka Gandhi into Politics was being tried even before Rahul Gandhi formally joined Congress, but she refused to entertain the party and public and thus remained in the sidelines.
Why Priyanka Gandhi was reluctant to join politics and perhaps don the mantle of the President and rule the country? Well, she could’ve easily become a better politician than Rahul. At least she has the infectious smile of her Grandma. Had she accepted the request of party workers and leaders, by now she could’ve established herself one good leader. Why then, she was averse to the politics?
The main reason, perhaps lie in the fact that she witnessed two gruesome assassinations in her family. At 12, she lost her grandmother and at 19, her father passed away. In a way, the rule of PV Narasimha Rao was a blessing in disguise for Sonia Gandhi and her family. Had Rao won the elections in 1996, perhaps he would have sent the Gandhi family into political oblivion. However, revenge seeking Sonia, backed by the power brokers of Congress returned with much vengeance and took control of the party, virtually kicking out the party president Sitaram Kesari out of office. Political life of Sonia Gandhi had attained its crescendo when she got Prabhakaran and his family including his son, who was still a child and decimated LTTE.
Perhaps, Sonia Gandhi fulfilled the aim of her life. But, for Priyanka Gandhi it remains a wound, an open and deep one. She met the perpetrators of her father’s murder in the jail, maybe to understand why her father was killed. Unlike her mother, she never wanted to avenge her father’s death. Maybe she thought she may start the cycle of killings once more, by seeking revenge.
Congress leaders in post Indira era have realised that the first place in the party is the property of the Gandhi family. This serves them in two ways. Unless the family member occupying the president post is intelligent enough, they get to run the party and the government on their own, especially in the executive domain, if not in policy framing. And, they know that the family is the common thread that can keep the party intact and always would be there to fetch votes and take them back to the seat of power. All they need to do is to respect the family. This maverick thinking was behind the overthrow of Sitaram Kesari and abandoning Narasimha Rao’s legacy.
It is a fact that many a congress leaders at the centre are not mass leaders but parasites living off the family’s name and fame. Mass leaders at state level have grown to be independent ones like Rajasekhara Reddy, who negotiated with the family to leave states to local leaders as long as they deliver parliament seats to the party. Unfortunately, such leaders are rare in current times. Of all central leaders of Congress, it is only Antony, who once was a mass leader. This explains a lot on the dependency of the party on the family.
For Priyanka Gandhi, however her family came first. Perhaps, she was not averse to live a life that was not in the public view. She could’ve lived so, but for her husband. Robert Vadra, not being content with the fortunes he got by virtue of being the National Damaad, had time and again put the party in black spots, with his business deals wherein he exploited his proximity to the family. He even publicly stated that he was not averse to join politics. His cousins and their spouses, like Tehseen Poonawala tried to impose themselves on the party only to be rebuked by the workers.
If Priyanka Gandhi enters politics, Robert Vadra would be the person who gets immediate benefit. It seems, he was eager to encash the cheque. Not only Robert, even Raihan, her son was in the news for the first time, for the wrong reason. When he joined the Doon school, continuing the family tradition, though he was a child, he used to write his name as Raihan Gandhi and not Raihan Vadra. It was reported at that time, only after his classmates ridicule, he became Raihan Vadra. Of course, he could write his name the way he wants, but this news only exposed political ambitions of Robert Vadra that were hidden from the public eye. But, are the political ambitions of her husband and son are aligned to her views, opinions and preferences? Perhaps, not.
It is not that she doesn’t know her own capabilities. She is suave, sufficiently arrogant and was liked by many, except Subramanian Swamy. Her word carries weight in the party circles, even today, though she doesn’t occupy any official position. She very well knows why the party leaders crave for her. It is not that she gains anything from her entry into politics, unless she choose to lead the party from the front. This means replacing Rahul Gandhi. Though Rahul realises his own deficiencies, he may well be provoked by the coterie that may find it difficult to deal with Priyanka Gandhi. For Robert Vadra, any proposition would be good. But, he may prefer Rahul Gandhi to Priyanka realising the futility to control the lady of the family, if knew even a little bit about Indira Gandhi. He better remember what happened to Firoze and Sanjay. In all probability, he would prefer Rahul to be in control, who was easy to manoeuvre. After Rahul, he can try to push young Raihan and control the party from behind the scenes or come to the fore, when the time suits.
All in all, except Priyanka Gandhi, everyone else is going to be benefited from her entering into politics. Everybody is ready to bet on her charisma. It is almost like Mahabharata, where Draupadi is used a pawn in the great political game. Like Draupadi, Priyanka know what she is. Unlike Draupadi, Priyanka also know what would happen at the of Mahabharata. Pandavas might have won the war and enjoyed the kingdom, but Draupadi lost her children. This is where similarities end and Priyanka Gandhi would never allow herself to become a pawn in the political game between her husband, brother and party men. Everyone gains in the game and she would be the only loser, whatever happens in the game. Alternately, she may choose to play a partial role and let Rahul take the centre stage. But, will she ever allow her son to be the political heir? That is the question for coming decades.