In this May 4, 2014 file photo Priyanka Vadra is seen during a road show in Amethi
In this May 4, 2014 file photo Priyanka Vadra is seen during a road show in Amethi | Atul Yadav | PTI
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Suspense is the word Congress president Rahul Gandhi has used to answer whether Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will contest the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Suspense is often what the Congress party has to offer. It keeps building up suspense for weeks and months and sometimes years, only to become a Diwali fire-cracker that fails to light up. Phuss, it’s called colloquially.

One recent example of this was the proposed alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. Another is how the rumour of Priyanka Gandhi entering public life carried on for so many years it didn’t have meaning.

When the Congress did launch Priyanka, at the fag end of Modi’s first term, it was too late for her to make any impact. She and her brother both made it clear they were looking at the 2022 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, implying they knew Priyanka wasn’t going to have much impact in UP in 2019 Lok Sabha election. This is how the Congress undermines itself, all the time.

The list of things the Congress party gets wrong is long. But there are a few things it is as poor in as timing. It doesn’t know when to strike. When the iron is hot, the Congress party goes into a slumber.


Also read: This election, a lot of people are rooting for a weak Modi


Don’t chicken out of it

How about Varanasi, Priyanka Gandhi casually told Congress workers in Raebareli last month. Having created the suspense herself, she must not chicken out of it now. Already, BJP mouthpieces who call themselves news channels have been hyping up the idea of Priyanka Gandhi contesting from Varanasi, so they can later say she lost her nerve.

If Priyanka Gandhi now decides to not contest from Varanasi, it will make Modi appear even stronger — in Varanasi and India alike. The unmistakable message will be the Congress doesn’t have the fire in its belly to fight the Modi juggernaut.

It is unlikely that Priyanka Gandhi could win Varanasi if she were to contest. But she’ll definitely give Narendra Modi a tough fight. At any rate a tougher fight than, say, the local Congress favourite, Ajay Rai. Priyanka Gandhi can at best hope to bring down the margins. The contest will be one of margins. There is no reason why Varanasi will want not want to be represented by the likely prime minister for a second term.

Yet the benefit of Priyanka Gandhi taking on Narendra Modi will be that this election will look like a contest after all. It will energise not just the Congress but opposition forces across the country. The prevailing sense of an absent national opposition will change.


Also read: In maiden rally, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra takes on PM Modi on his home turf


In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP put up Smriti Irani in Amethi, against Rahul Gandhi. Narendra Modi went and campaigned there. The idea was to impact the national political narrative by suggesting that the BJP is so resurgent, it is willing to go and attack the Congress on its home turf. That is also what the Congress could achieve by taking on Modi in Varanasi.

Over a few weeks in Varanasi, Priyanka Gandhi’s campaign will help voters across India get a better chance to compare the two sides. It might even help us answer the TINA question. Is there really no alternative?

Who’s afraid of Priyanka?

That is not to say that Priyanka Gandhi should or could come to be seen as a prime ministerial candidate. But at least a high-profile PGV vs NaMo campaign will help the Congress articulate its position better. At a time when the BJP has established a monopoly over the means of mass communication and political campaigning, Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi will help the Congress hog the limelight, get saturation media coverage, and occupy people’s minds.

On 23 May, we should be ready to hear that Priyanka Gandhi too has flopped, because under her command the Congress isn’t about to see a revolution in central and east UP. By contesting from Varanasi, she can save her own career. She can establish her image as a politician at least willing to put up a fight.


Also read: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra launches political career, but talk is all about Indira


AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal may have lost Varanasi in 2014 but people there still remember what a challenge he had mounted. “The people of Varanasi don’t disappoint anyone. They are always welcoming of outsiders,” a local journalist told me. Varanasi is a city of possibilities. Who knows the impossible may happen? It is a BJP stronghold all right, but the Congress did win a surprise victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha election.

Nominations can be filed between 22 and 29 April. Varanasi votes on 19 May in the last phase. If the idea of Priyanka Gandhi contesting from Varanasi is to lift the Congress campaign nationally, then it is already late. Two of seven phases are over. Time is running out but the Congress is never in a hurry. If not this election then the next one.

Suspense is not a bad thing, Rahul Gandhi says. It reminds one of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s famous line, that not taking a decision is also a decision. Priyanka Gandhi has made it clear she is up for it. But party president and dear brother Rahul Gandhi is hatching eggs on the idea.

Most likely, he will tell her to let Modi win Varanasi without any trouble. After all, Rahul Gandhi has the most to lose with the success of Priyanka Gandhi.

The views are personal.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. There is a theory on ‘core competence’ which says that organizations must concentrate on areas that they are good at. The author has pointed out the weaknesses of the Congress. Their strong points are however corruption. arrogance, manipulation and divide and rule. And they are implementing just that. We only have wait and see how they succeed.

    • Or Rahul is afraid that Modi with his words will expose Priyanka.
      What Modi could say:
      “Now she visits Varanasi after 40 years”
      “will she build the temple in Ayodhya?”
      “She removed Vadra family’s Garibi for 20 generations; she can now tell us all how we can do the same”

      Rahul will have tough time dressing Priyanks after she is exposed; Modi’s words could make Vadra family naked.

  2. Either the writer is member of Khongress party or soon to be…. I fail to understand what good Shivam Vij has seen in RaGa…. Has RaGa changed the face of his constituency despite 15 years of his MPship or for that matter 25 years of Khongress rule in a VIP constituency…… Has he uplifted the moral of his party…. Has he learnt the lessons of politics…. Recent interaction of RaGa in Pune University where he could not understand the simple question from a student, is testimony to this….. The writer seems to be a Pseudo Journo…. Or being paid for….

    • Extremely interesting comment. Agree that Rahul Gandhi does not inspire confidence. But why look for leaders? Why not look for people who can create good teams with good ideas. At least the Congress has good people and good ideas. If they can publicly apologise for corruption, it will win them many voters. But the last time India chose a leader, he highly disappointed India On top of that Modi has opted for hatred politics and he has no talent in his party. How can someone choose a party which does not believe in the Constitution of India. Isnt that anti nationalism at its worst.

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