Just as one was beginning to wonder how would the media sustain the frenetic 24/7 coverage of demonetisation with queues at ATMs visibly becoming shorter, Priyanka Vadra Gandhi’s pictures popped up on TV screens. It was announced that she was going to play a major role in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.
Similar indications were there some months ago – only to be downplayed later. Following the appointment of a “minority” face, Raj Babbar as UP Congress chief and drafting the near octogenarian Punjabi Khatri bahu of a Brahmin family from Unnao, Sheila Dikshit, as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the revised strategy of the Congress appeared to be centred on Rahul Gandhi.
Prashant Kishore, the maverick poll pundit, planned a series of road shows. However, the very first of the mega events had to be aborted, as Sonia Gandhi suddenly took ill. The subsequent rural outreach of Rahul Gandhi fizzled out with his bloopers like “aaloo ka factory” and overtures for an alliance were rudely rejected by the Samajwadi Party, which had resolved its own fratricidal feuds by then. So, once again, out came the Priyanka card – the last remaining arrow in the dynastic quiver of the Congress.
As expected, there was much outpouring of joy at the possibility of the Princess finally agreeing to come out of the wings. But, the basis of the euphoria was not clear except for her striking physical resemblance with Indira Gandhi. In fact, a Bollywood starlet tweeted:
“I saw Priyanka Gandhi 2 weeks ago. She has got streaks of grey hair aka Indira Gandhi. Striking resemblance. If she leads Congress they will win”
This writer had remarked in an earlier article very little is known about Priyanka – apart from her looks and occasional sound bytes like “Main Rajiv Gandhi ki beti hoon” or “Robert Vadra meri pati hain”, which are not profound by any stretch. At least in the case of Rahul Gandhi, people have some idea of his position (or, perhaps, the lack of it) on various issues. Priyanka is all enigma.
Yet if people are willing to pin their hope on her stunning cotton sarees because she reminds them of her grandmother, it says something that probably deserves a little more exploration.
In criticising Narendra Modi, the left-liberal intellectuals routinely invoke all the ‘negative’ traits that could be associated with Indira Gandhi. The ‘Emergency’ is a common refrain even among Congress leaders and supporters. They see reflections of the so called ‘fascist’ streaks of Indira Gandhi, that are acknowledged in hindsight, in Modi as well.
Modi’s tough call on Pakistan and efforts to mobilise international opinion against it are seen as poor copies of pages taken out of Indira Gandhi’s foreign policy. As, indeed, her “Garibi Hatao” slogan. Now even demonetisation may be compared with Indira Gandhi’s socialistic adventures like bank nationalisation.
Therefore, in endorsing Priyanka Gandhi as a potential reincarnation of Indira Gandhi, are the Modi detractors by default admitting that ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is the best way to govern India? Their only problem seems to be that, an outsider rather than someone from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is getting to play that part. Their disappointment with Rahul lies in his style and temperament rather than the lack of substance.
Therefore, with Sonia Gandhi steadily stepping back – whether by choice or for reasons of health – they are willing to bet on Priyanka, even if she is going to be another wild card just like her Dadi-ma in the 1960s.