The country was absolutely livid with excitement at the prospect of Priyanka Vadra Gandhi’s candidature from Varanasi. The left liberals were swooning with joy. However, putting a damp end to their liveliness, the grand old party had at the last moment decided to field Ajay Singh from Varanasi, protecting the sole significant Congress heir. While the decision of not fielding her is obvious, the reasons for such aren’t so much.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had entered the fray of politics as a last minute resort, in an effort to revive the grand old party’s fortunes in UP after her brother, Rahul Gandhi’s leadership had led the party to an all time low. Nevertheless, the ‘Brahmastra’ was unable to achieve any significant results as her party’s electoral future was already doomed by her brother’s antics.
After the inability to do anything worthwhile, a major issue had cropped up with regards to her candidature, which had to be iconic, fit for the ‘Gandhi’ stature. On this, Priyanka had made it absolutely clear that she wouldn’t mind contesting from Varanasi. Varanasi was the perfect constituency. For the virtue of being a symbol of Hinduism, along with being PM Modi’s constituency, the nomination would have been significant culturally, as well as politically. Moreover, the fact that it was situated in the most politically crucial state, UP, would have been an added advantage. Priyanka had stirred the rumours about her candidature by asking publically in a meeting, “Varanasi se lad lun (should I contest from Varanasi?)”; thereafter had even sassily replied to a question on her supposed Rai Bareily nomination by saying, “Why not Varanasi?” Following this, she further fueled the rumors by stating a number of times that she will contest the elections from Varanasi, “if the party asks me to do so.” The Congress clan in response to these speculations birthed by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra herself; was heartily cheering for their “Brahmastra”, believing her to easily curb the popularity of PM Modi.
However, good sense prevailed and Congress decided to not field Priyanka from the constituency. She had entered the party when it was being felt that this generation of Gandhi would not produce a Prime Minister and the Congress did not want to lose this hope. With Rahul Gandhi’s substandard leadership quite evident given the growing lack of Congress popularity, Priyanka was being viewed as the best possible alternative. Congress cannot risk the disastrous political ramifications which would be inevitable if she contests from Varanasi. Moreover, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra herself knew that her political career will end before it even began if she associates herself with Varanasi. Therefore, in her stead, Congress had decided to field Ajay Singh, the party’s sacrificial lamb.
While the people can understand what caused this fear of polling among the Congress cadre; the queerness of the reaction is the fact that the reasons and causes which had led the Congress to flee had existed since before, nothing in the situation has changed. So the question to ponder upon is, why did Priyanka Gandhi with the party in tow decide to portray her nomination when they had no intention of doing so? Or did they expect their highly precarious situation in the state to miraculously change?
It has come to light that this is exactly what the party had intended. The Congress party leaders had been in communication with BSP leader Mayawati, trying to get her to withdraw the Mahagathbandhan candidate fielded from Varanasi. SP-BSP has made an alliance in the state, and had fielded Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of former Rajya Sabha Deputy chairperson Shyam Lal Yadav; in the constituency from SP. Congress had been vying to be a part of this Mahagathbandhan but wasn’t allowed to enter the fray. This was one of the major reasons why Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had been appointed as the General Secretary of UP East, as the party was hoping her ‘charm’ and ‘political acumen’ would help achieve the alliance. However, the exercise proved futile as the Mahagathbandhan had categorically kept Congress out of the fray. They had, nevertheless, decided not to field candidates in the two traditional Congress bastions of Amethi and Rai Bareili, as a gesture of goodwill. In spite of this, Congress had unabashedly asked for another favour from the SP-BSP alliance.
SP leader Akhilesh Yadav was reasonably open to Priyanka Gandhi’s candidature from Varanasi instead of their own Shalini Yadav, but it was Mayawati who categorically refused the request. Mayawati did not want to be associated with Congress and felt this move might increase Congress’ popularity in East UP, which would be detrimental to the SP-BSP alliance’s interests. Due to this underlying factor, Mayawati had refused to pay heed to Priyanka Gandhi and thus the Congress daughter was left without support in the state.
The irony of the situation is, without having any proper confirmation or even a sign of acceptance from BSP, the Congress was parading Priyanka Gandhi around, foreseeing a Varanasi candidature. This spectacle of the grand old party only indicates the delusions of grandeur they hold; perceiving the Gandhi brand to hold such significance that other parties will adjust according to their whims and fancies. The Congress clearly isn’t looking at the national party interests and simply wants to get three confirmed seats in the state, one for each of the remaining Gandhis, to hold power within the family. In order to achieve this, they would go to any extent, even implore other parties in their effort to eliminate all competition so that the voters have only one choice- the Gandhi family.