In this Feb 3, 2012 file photo Priyanka Vadra is seen at an election campaign in Amethi | Atul Yadav/PTI
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Priyanka’s choice of political challenge & timing underline an audacity rare among risk-averse dynasties. But that won’t be enough to revive Congress in eastern UP.

Usually, there isn’t much of a story to prominent politicians’ children joining politics. It’s an inevitability. Over the last four decades of dynasty-fication, Indian leaders have converted their constituencies into ‘riyasats’ (estates) and anointed themselves the new maharajas. Succession, then, follows naturally. So, why the excitement over Priyanka Gandhi now? She is only doing what she was always expected to. What’s the story in the inevitable coming about, except the timing?

Now think harder.

There is also another, equally important “usual” to dynasty politics. Any offspring is given a convenient and safe launch-pad in the political principality’s pocket borough and then nurtured along to take over. From Indira Gandhi beginning comfortably in the Rajya Sabha to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli-Amethi, to Jyotiraditya Scindia in Gwalior-Guna, Deepender Hooda in Rohtak, Supriya Sule in Baramati to Ashok Chavan, Milind Deora and practically anybody new-gen within the UPA has been gifted a soft launch. The BJP-NDA can’t feel smug either.

The Yadav families in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have their own respective princely enclaves. All the new kids, of Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh, Maneka Gandhi, Prem Kumar Dhumal, Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde, Purno Sangma, Ram Vilas Paswan and even others such as Piyush Goyal owe their political birth to some kind of “assisted” delivery, through daddy’s Rajya Sabha franchise, even if not the constituency. No new dynast, whether child, child-in-law or widow that I can remember, has yet been denied an easy pass. You can’t afford to see your child and successor lose. Risks are for the foot-soldiers, or political wet-nurses.


Also read: Protective Sonia & bodybuilder Robert Vadra have finally released Priyanka from purdah


This is the law of Indian dynastic politics Priyanka Gandhi has broken. Instead of moving quietly into Rae Bareli (even if she were to take it later) and claiming the goodwill her mother and grandmother have built over five decades, she has taken over the party’s campaign in the most challenging political geography for it in all of India. The Congress has been dead for long in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Even its mummies or fossils are hard to find.

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Further, it is the home of Yogi Adityanath, and includes Narendra Modi’s much-pampered Varanasi. Even under Priyanka, how likely is the Congress party’s revival here? The truthful answer is, nearly zero. This underlines what is different about Priyanka’s formal entry into politics. Her choice of the challenge, and the timing, underline a go-for-broke audacity rare among our risk-averse dynasties.

We don’t know enough about her to say what impact her entry would make on the party. Will she be the first among the equals, which is 13 general secretaries of the party, or president Rahul Gandhi’s de facto no. 2, as tradition would demand? Or, can she surprise everybody by focussing on her charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh while Jyotiraditya Scindia picks up the pieces in the polarised west?

Here is what we know about her. She, more than Rahul, has rootedness, focus and a sense of destiny. You can dismiss it as the chip on a mere royalty’s shoulder, if you so wish. But play that short clip as she walked out of the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting in the summer of 2004 after her mother announced she wasn’t accepting the post of prime minister. Priyanka said, paraphrased, that sacrifice, physical risk and the burden of governing India was the family’s responsibility.


Also read: BSP-SP alliance spooked Congress so much that it brought out Brahmastra Priyanka Gandhi


It was spoken with a curious mix of pain, helplessness and also pride bordering on dynastic entitlement, if not vanity. She is more her reluctant-politician father’s child than the grandmother she physically so resembles. She has spent years in deep Buddhist training and meditation to rid herself of the pain and anger of his cruel assassination, and ambition for power. This had enabled her to duck a greedy party’s pressures and prayers and keep clear of politics.

We don’t know what changed it now. But now that she is there, she is not the type to step into anybody’s warm shoes or chappals. She’s in it for a fight. It can revive her party, or leave her stranded in the “dal-dal” (sounds better in Hindi than the English quicksands) of eastern UP politics and finish the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty with no other to fall back on. For her personally, the move is comparable with Indira Gandhi breaking up the Congress in 1969, exactly 50 years ago. To that extent, it is out of her fighter grandmother’s book, not her hesitant father’s.

That’s why we say that Priyanka’s is a go-for-broke plunge.


Also read: Rahul Gandhi decided to bring Priyanka into politics after 2018 poll victories


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8 Comments Share Your Views

8 COMMENTS

  1. Please stop perpetuating a retrograde thing like dynasty on the ground of being ‘different’. Robinhood too was a criminal with a ‘difference’. Foolan Devi was a murderer with a ‘difference’ – that is what Mulayam Singh Yadav thought. The romanticism must not be part of an analysis that too by a writer of the caliber of Shekhar Gupta.

  2. A woman of substance. Also of style and her father’s natural charm. Has accepted with quiet dignity her mother’s preference for her son, when it comes to passing on the family’s almost natural right to rule over India. No longer unbroken, but with enough consistency to keep the entire party and senior leaders within the gravitational field. She would not have felt happy or vindicated to step in when her brother was seen to be floundering. Now that his authority has been validated by the wins in three important states, she would see her formal entry as a source of strength for him. Also, the bloodline would now pass through her children. 2. Eastern UP is Omkaraland, and the Congress not winning many seats is – not to deny the future – the conventional wisdom. No one will ask for her head if the inevitable happens. Maybe I am completely mistaken, but the Congress would be delighted if the BJP loses more than fifty seats in UP, more than hitting two digits on its own. The Gandhis were not held personally responsible for 44 in 2014. Nor for six in UP in 2017. So, in that sense, this is not a high stakes gamble, with a possible savage downside for Ms Priyanka Gandhi. The party president’s is a full time job, as is the prime minister’s. The Gandhis sense change in the air. They feel there will be a lot of responsibility for both siblings to shoulder.

  3. It is always difficult for the”outsiders” to enter an aggregate of power. Every politician when s/he succeeds in getting IN he automatically gets free entry passes for her/his family members, and because of this reason the entire family or Kunba turns Insider. It is like a fox when manages to enter the epicentre of power in the forest, it becomes a lion with even the fox-kits turning into lion-cubs. There is a strong cohesion between the insiders of a political party, and acorss the parties a loose kind of mel-milaap within the IN society of politics. This is a cross-national phenomenon. It is a lingering remnant of feudal culture manifesting itself not only in modern political but even in other social structures. Like the faecal particles are known to seep deep in the soil of places where humans practice open defecation, certain human behaviours, tendencies, and relationships seep deep into modern or even transformed structures of societal change and keep showing. Rationality of change moves in time always with certain irrationality of the past. Many times the remnant helps the totality in forming new waves of change also. So it seems will Priyanka do.

  4. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala(Punjab)

    The NaMo led BJP had not yet recovered from the poll shocks in the Hindi Heartland states of Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the Priyanka Gandhi ‘s formal entry into politics development on the eve of Lok Sabha Polls 2019 is indeed a bolt
    from the blue !

    Shekhar Sahib, you may see eye to eye with this fact or not, this development is going to be a blessing in disguise for the Rahul Gandhi
    led Congress Party ! It is a wonderful trump card of the Congress to snub the NaMo and BJP at the 2019 hustings !

    After the recent Hindi Heartland assembly polls wins and successes, this development will not only consolidate Congress’s turf in Uttar Pradesh alone but in various parts of the nation too.

    Her youthful persona, her art of mass-roots connectivity, impressive communication skills and long experience will richly contribute
    in attracting youth, fair- sex, common and educated electorate alike .

    In addition to this, she will infuse blood and breathe life into the depressed Congress workers, preparing and galvanising the Congress Party in every nook and corner of the country !

    Moreover,NaMo government’s failures on various fronts and attempts to undermine-subvert constitution and vital institutions of the nation will be very impressively exploited by Congress after her active participation in the electoral arena !

    Then after three assembly polls wonderful successes, an electrified Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi has been making his intentions very clear that he is now determined to play on the front foot certainly not on the back foot !

    Come what may, he has decided very resolutely to spring pleasing surprises in the ensuing Lok Sabha Polls leaving nothing to chance at all .

    It should be a cause of deep worry for NaMo and his BJP constraining him to spend sleepless and restless nights !

    This development infact augurs quite auspicious for pleasant and constructive innovation on the national political scene in the best interests of INDIA !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest, Barnala (Punjab)

  5. If until the age of 47 Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hasn’t taken a plunge into politics, it means she is basically not interested in this occupation. Otherwise during the rule of UPA 1 & 2, she could have easily become at least a junior minister.

    Such “disinterested” people are the ones who take out-of-the box (OOTB) decisions. They are also the ones who get quickly fed up with the nitty-gritty details of a job, and go back to their “disinterested” state. So it is difficult to say where Priyanka will be a few years down the line, but at least for now, it’ll be safe to assume that she will blow a new spirit of life into the UP Congress.

    (Go-for-broke phrase does not apply to genuinely disinterested people, which is what Priyanka GV is in my opinion, having watched some of her TV footage. Such people can walk into or walk out of any situation with equal ease.)

  6. 1. I think the biggest advantage for the Congress party of Nehru-Indira Gandhi dynasty is that almost in all the States of Indian Union, Gandhis are known as belonging to a family that has an all India image. In other words Rahul Gandhi will not be regarded as someone who belongs to Uttar Pradesh and as someone who will be more interested in furthering interests of people of Uttar Pradesh say in preference to say Madhya Pradesh or Karnataka. This is not case with any other politician. For example PM Narendra Modi will always be regarded as someone who belongs to Gujarat. Public perception is that PM Narendra Modi will protect interests of Gujarat first in preference to any other State, even Uttar Pradesh from where he has been elected to Lok Sabha. 2. I think Smt Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra are aware of advantage which Gandhis are privileged to enjoy. But question is: would the Congress under President Rahul Gandhi be successful in Uttar Pradesh? Answer to this question is pretty unpredictable.

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