Priyanka Unlimited

At a time when Congress is so down and out, BJP doesn’t even want smallest sympathy wave generated on Priyanka’s...


Jyoti Malhotra April 29, 2014
The writer is an independent journalist based in New Delhi and writes for several Indian newspapers

Campaigning in her mother’s constituency in Rae Bareli –– in the heart of Uttar Pradesh (UP) –– ended on April 28, but Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka, had already brought the fight back into the Congress Party. Over the weekend she had declared that Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was running around like a pack of panic-stricken rats and that the insults hurled against her and her family would only strengthen her determination to take on the BJP.

From all accounts, the charge has come a bit too late. Modi is all over our television screens, radio jingles and print ads, imploring the people to vote for the BJP because their “vote will go straight to him.” He has also upped the ante, targeting Farooq Abdullah’s family in Kashmir, accusing it of being communal against Kashmiri Pandits. And in West Bengal last week, he targeted Bangladeshi migrants, telling them to get ready to leave India after May 16.

But the biggest diatribe was reserved for Priyanka’s husband, Robert Vadra, a businessman from Moradabad. Unveiling a video that alleged he had made hundreds of millions of rupees from insider trading in land in the Congress-ruled states of Haryana and Rajasthan, the BJP acknowledged that they considered Priyanka their chief opponent in the Congress party.

Certainly, the cheer inside the Congress has been muted because ‘Rahul bhaiyya’ is still at the helm of affairs. Priyanka, who is said to adore her brother, agrees. Moreover, she has a husband and two children. Rahul, on the other hand, must lead such a lonely life despite being in the constant eye of the storm.

The truth is that despite the near-certainty of the BJP coming to power in just two weeks –– the satta bazaar has even stopped betting for Rahul’s Congress –– there remains in India an unquenched desire to know more and more about the Gandhi-Nehru family. They are the ultimate Indian tragedy, soaked in both blood and power, so remote that you know nothing about them and yet so intimate that when her audience in Rae Bareli told Priyanka that they couldn’t see her because of the forest of TV cameras, she simply came down from the stage, stepped out of the TV cordon, picked up a chair and sat down in front of them. “Ab to main dikhti hoon?” she asked.

How can you not shower your love and praise –– and your vote –– on this girl?

Contrast this with the night Rahul Gandhi spent in the hut of a Dalit in 2009 in his own Amethi constituency in UP (neighbouring Rae Bareli), taking then British foreign secretary David Miliband with him. When the media found out, they splashed it all over the place. Rahul reacted by being shy and reserved and gauche, insisting that this was none of the media’s business. The media reacted by making fun of his intermittent visits to Dalit homes, as if it were an excursion or something.

But we can all imagine what Priyanka would have done with that event. She would have celebrated it and converted it into a headline on the status of Dalits in an opposition-ruled state. She would have sat on the mud floor and eaten with her host family –– all of which Rahul did too –– and insisted that they tell her their story. In the best, possible way, she would have humanised herself and her hosts.

It has been fascinating to see how the BJP has reacted so violently to Priyanka’s comments over the weekend. The video against her husband is an unmitigated mix of allegation and a cheap shot. Certainly, some of the rumours about him benefiting in land transactions through inside information are true, but to bring down the level of political discourse to attacking Sonia’s son-in-law is pretty low, even for the BJP.

So why is the BJP reacting so adversely to Priyanka and her husband? Firstly, because it is clear that Robert Vadra is the Congress party’s Achilles’ heel. Second, Priyanka is such a natural that in a time when the Congress is so down and out, the BJP doesn’t even want the smallest sympathy wave generated on her count.

Imagine then, what would happen if Priyanka actually decided to enter politics?

That question must now be kicked down to 2019. Until then, India prepares for a whole new government in power.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2014.

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COMMENTS (32)

Gp65 | 7 years ago | Reply

Dear ma"m

Priyanka was ghe main campaigner in UP state elections in Vidhan Sabha seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Congress lost 8 out of 10 of those seats.

Further, the False claim of Modi calling her his daughter, the neech rajneeti comment ( even though it may not have had a casteist angle), the arrogant 'Smriti who' are all statements that have boomeranged.

Rahul had won Amethi with 370000 margin in 2009. Even if. He manages to retain his seats, it will be with a far fqr. More modest margin. Possibly it maybe the case like Bellary where Sushma lost to Sonia in 1999 but subsequently, Congress never won that seat. The questions on governance raised by Smriti have not been answered by Priyanka who has simply focused on the family name and running down those who she believes are not as elite as she is. But just ignoring the questions will not make them go away.

I also feel surprised that you respect an arrogant dynast rather than a self made woman like Smriti considering that you yourself are a professional woman who has made it on her own steam.

Rakib | 7 years ago | Reply

@Rex Minor: Ashoka the historical emperor didn't walk out of 'Hindutva' which is a recent, 20th century concept & Buddhists aren't really non-violent. Human failings are same irrespective of beliefs..(a) Hinduism-Hindutva were unknown words in Ashoka's days though Persians might have been familiar with 'Hindu' as people (b) In his early days Ashoka was fond of Indian Materialism/Nihilism, which meant living in spiritual vaccume, almost. Formally,like his father Bindusaar, he followed Ajivika sect (Indian heterodoxy). It's a measure of greatness that such ideas were never proscribed. Post Kalinga, remorse driven & in search of spiritual solace he could have opted for Vedic Dharma of his old clan or gone for Jainism (preferred by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya in his old age). But, he chose Buddhism. In this land back then where aggressive proselytism was unknown it mattered little who followed what. (c) Word & Concept of "Hindutva" as a political ideology of a few hardline reactionary Hindus were invented/coined by one Mr.Savarkar during session of Hindu Mahasabha (grand conference) held in Ahmedabad in 1929. Hinduism is a religion while Hindutva is a political ideology. The former has nothing to do with latter.

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