Amid declining electoral misfortunes and the rising in-fighting among the party’s cadres, Congress’ adversities don’t seem to come to an end. Some might contribute these series of misfortunes to Rahul Gandhi’s substandard leadership, as even a bare glance at the situation would reveal that matters have been worsening since the ill-fated moment.
Even after the drama of resigning from the party’s leadership after the 2019 electoral fiasco, Rahul Gandhi is essentially the prime public face of the party; with everyone including the Congress party members and the citizens anticipating his return to power any day. However, with one failure after another, the Congress members are covertly turning their attention to the other Gandhi – Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Priyanka is the example of the rare Gandhi who has been isolated from active politics. While she has been the confidant and advisor of Sonia Gandhi and acted as a ‘star campaigner’ in both 2004 and 2009 general elections; she has restricted herself from playing an active role in politics.
However, since last year, when Priyanka Gandhi was appointed as the General Secretary of UP (East) ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, her presence and influence have been increasing in the political fold. With 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, UP is the most politically important state in the country and the fact that Priyanka Gandhi played a key role in it, indicates the thought process of Congress. Right, when it seemed there was a fair chance this generation of the Nehru-Gandhi clan would not produce a prime minister, Priyanka Gandhi has entered the fray.
The most recent crisis which the Congress party faced was during the in-fighting in Rajasthan when it seemed that the rebellion of Sachin Pilot would dismantle the Congress Government in the state. Eventually, Priyanka Gandhi was roped-in to placate Pilot and broker truce between him and CM Ashok Gehlot. She was also engaged in back-channel talks with Gehlot. It was due to her timely intervention that Congress, even on a slippery slope, was able to hold on to state.
Priyanka Gandhi is quickly making her way around the party, gaining grassroots level support, which will prove to be invaluable when she finally decided to take the plunge. The Congress leaders, for fear of defiance, are publicly supporting Rahul Gandhi, but are surely hoping for a change in leadership. Illustrating this is Randeep Surjewala’s statement claiming that 99.9 per cent of Congress members want Rahul Gandhi, but for some strange reasons, the leaders themselves are not very vocal about this.
To set the narrative, Surjewala said, “Electoral college of Congress, AICC members, Congress workers & members will choose who’s best suited. 99.9% of people including me want Rahul Gandhi to be elected as party president.”
However, none of the leaders is declaring their unequivocal desire for this, in a manner that seems natural and unscripted.
Over and above that, one should also recall the dissent letter written in August, which sought radical changes in the Congress party, particularly in the leadership. The letter was written by 23 Congress leaders, wanting reform, and seeking “sweeping changes” in the party. It had called for “full time and effective leadership”, which was both “visible” and “active” in the field. It covertly portrayed how the veteran Congress leaders are unsatisfied with Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and want a change. Even though now the leaders are apparently quelled, the underlying notion of their desire for a change remains unchanged.
During that time, perhaps speaking what was on everybody’s mind, UP Congress leader Acharya Pramod claimed that crores of Congress workers across the country want Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to be the party chief. Previously, Acharya Pramod has gone as far as to claim that Priyanka is more efficient than Rahul Gandhi.
देश के वर्तमान राजनैतिक “परिदृश्य” को देखते हुए कांग्रेस के करोड़ों कार्यकर्ताओं की भावना है कि पार्टी की “कमान” प्रियंका गांधी को सौंप दी जाये, ताकि मोदी सरकार की जन विरोधी नीतियों के “ख़िलाफ़” पूरे देश में एक जन आंदोलन खड़ा किया जा सके.
— Acharya Pramod (@AcharyaPramodk) November 22, 2020
Priyanka Gandhi is constantly compared to her brother and most analysts feel that she is the more natural and outgoing of the two. With her striking resemblance to her grandmother, Indira Gandhi, coupled with her infectious smile which seems genuine, she is the more favoured among the masses between the two siblings. This is now increasingly being realised by the Congress cadre as well.
A decade ago, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in an interview with NDTV, “It would be hard for me to be convinced that the party needed me”. Evidently, that time has now come.
As Priyanka makes her way to the top, she has one thing in her favour that Rahul Gandhi never did. Unlike the Congress scion, who was automatically given the plump post by his mother Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka is working from the grassroots level, gaining the support of the entire brass of Congress leadership. When the time comes for her to replace her brother at the helm of the party, this support of the Congress cadre will prove to be invaluable.