“I will leave you in suspense” is what Congress President Rahul Gandhi said eight days ago when asked about rumors of his sister’s candidature in Varanasi. Now, with just four days remaining to file nominations in Varanasi, it looks like Gandhi is willing to end the suspense
According to reports of multiple TV channels, including India Today, the Congress president has finally “vetoed” the proposal of fielding Priyanka Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi after ‘hectic internal consultations’
As per reports, Rahul Gandhi feels that his party should not ape rival BJP or engage in ‘personal face-offs’
This could come as disappointment to Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Robert Vadra, who had told media a week ago that his wife was willing to fight from Varanasi against Modi.
Priyanka Gandhi, on her part, is also learnt to have been keen on beginning her political career with a big battle against the Bahubali of Indian politics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Officially, however, she has always maintained that ball was in Rahul Gandhi’s court as far as the decision on her fighting the election was concerned.
“I will do what the party asks me to do, will abide by what my president says”, Priyanka Gandhi clarified on the rumors on Tuesday, while making it clear that she was game for a fight if her brother gave the green signal.
She has maintained that Modi should be given a befitting reply from his stronghold Varanasi to save the nation from an ‘oppressive rule’.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER?
After resisting calls to give a more active role to the elder of the two Gandhi siblings for years, Indian National Congress made her general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh in a surprise move in January earlier this year.
Some believe that by not fielding Priyanka from Varanasi, Congress stands to lose a chance to stop, or at least mount a formidable challenge to, the Narendra Modi juggernaut at a time when it is showing signs of slowing down.
Moreover, UP is a crucial state in the general elections. The BJP had won 71 out of the total 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014.
Supporters of her entry into electoral politics believe that her candidature will not only energise Congress, but the entire opposition across the country.
CHALLENGER TO THE THRONE?
On the other side are those who believe that Priyanka’s entry into more active politics at this time could lead to unnecessary strife, confusion and competition for the top post within the Congress.
It is believed that the fact that she was given an official position in the Congress only four months ago has to do with this desire to avoid a conflict at the top, especially on the part of their mother Sonia Gandhi. She, it is believed, wants to ensure a smooth ‘transition of power’ to Rahul Gandhi.
The eventual plan, it would seem, is to slowly bring her in so that Rahul Gandhi gets time to strengthen and consolidate his position within the party and avoid any disruption when she finally makes her entry on the national scene.
And from Rahul Gandhi’s reported move to veto her candidature today, it would seem that at least he believes that that time is not yet.
The signal, it would seem, is for her to focus more on Uttar Pradesh for now, while he focuses on national politics.
Part of the concern could be related to how new he is as the Congress President.
Apart from the recent Assembly Election victories in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and pulling of a last-minute alliance with JD(S) in Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi is yet to score any big victory in his term as the President.
Rahul Gandhi’s real agnipareeksha remains the ongoing general elections
If Congress fails to bag at least 140 seats or so and mount a viable claim to form the next government, chances are that at least some of the Congress leaders will revolt and start clamoring for an alternative leader.
In such a context, Priyanka’s Gandhi’s presence could embolden such elements and lead to a division within the party.
All eyes, for now, are on Sonia Gandhi, who has reportedly been once again saddled with the unenviable task of choosing between the interests of her two offsprings.
How she untangles this web tangled ambitions is likely to have an impact far beyond her family and mold the future of Congress as a party.