Priyanka Gandhi has formally announced her entry in active Indian politics. This can have major repercussions for the upcoming general elections and beyond.
- Priyanka Gandhi has been appointed by the Congress as General Secretary, Uttar Pradesh (East)
- The announcement marks her formal entry into Indian politics, though she has been a strong backbone for the Congress party over the years.
- This decision has engendered strong reactions across the political spectrum, which indicates her potential as a game changer.
- Priyanka’s entry is expected to redraw battle lines in UP as well as in national politics.
Months before the general elections, Priyanka Gandhi has formally announced her decision to join active politics.
She is expected to take charge as the party’s General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh (East) on February 4 after taking a dip in the Ganga during Kumbh Mela. Priyanka has been hands-on in operational matters for some time, but this is the first time she will be coming to the forefront. Her brother and Congress President Rahul Gandhi has indicated that Priyanka (with Jyotiraditya Scindia, who will be in charge of Western UP) are not being sent for two months, but “to take UP forward following the Congress philosophy”.
Priyanka’s entry is seen as a game changer for politics at a national stage, and has greatly enthused the Congress cadre in the state. We DKODE her political career so far, and the possible repercussions of her entry into Indian politics.
CHARISMATIC LEADER IN THE MAKING?
When deliberating on Priyanka’s potential as a politician, few would miss a mention of her striking resemblance to her grandmother Indira Gandhi in looks and manner of speaking, which is seen as a major advantage. Twitter is already calling her the ‘21st century Indira Gandhi’.
Indeed, while growing up in independent India’s most powerful political family, Priyanka admits to having “imbibed politics from the dinner table”. But the tragic assassination of her grandmother was a brutal shock early in life.
Priyanka campaigned for the first time for her father in 1989. But after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi two years later, Priyanka retreated from the public eye with her mother and brother. Priyanka did campaign for the Congress, however, in 1999 when the party candidate Capt. Satish Sharma faced a challenge from Rajiv Gandhi’s cousin Arun Nehru in Rae Bareli. She also campaigned for her mother in Bellary, Karnataka.
She continued to largely stay away from the limelight even after 2004, choosing to help the party from the behind the scenes. An avid reader of Hindi literature, she wrote her mother’s early political speeches and campaigned in her constituency. Priyanka has also played a key role in deciding ticket distribution and holding discussions with alliance partners.
She has actively campaigned for her mother and brother in 2004, 2009 and 2014. In 2017, Priyanka planned the Congress’ strategy for the UP polls and negotiated with allies like Akhilesh Yadav. She has also been credited with playing a role in forming the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka and selection of Chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
From what we have seen of Priyanka as a leader so far on the campaign trail, she has an exceptional ability to connect with audiences and has an assertive personality.
A WAVE OF CHANGE?
Priyanka Gandhi’s formal entry into politics has ruffled more than a few feathers. This is evident from the variety of reactions that her entry has invited from across the political spectrum – welcoming, defensive, critical and even downright misogynistic. Some of them are as follows:
“I am very happy that my sister Priyanka will assist me in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, she is very capable… we won’t play on the back foot, we will play on the front foot, be it Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh.”
Rahul Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress
“Samajwadi Party always welcomes new people in politics. I congratulate the Congress party and its president for appointing Priyanka Gandhi as the AICC general secretary of East UP.”
Akhilesh Yadav, President, Samajwadi Party
“Priyanka is a good woman. But her appointment also shows Rahul has understood that he cannot do politics alone, so he asked his sister Priyanka to help him”
Sumitra Mahajan, Lok Sabha Speaker
“Priyanka’s businessman husband’s irregular land transactions are spread across two states and he is facing probes. If the Congress wants to exult over the induction of a woman with a tainted life partner, it is most welcome to do so.”
Sushil Kumar Modi, Deputy Chief Minister, Bihar
“A Congress leader demands that Kareena Kapoor should be fielded from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. Sometimes others talk about fielding Salman Khan from Indore. Likewise, Priyanka was also brought into active politics… Agle Lok Sabha chunav ke maidan mein utaarne Congress ke pass mazboot neta nahi hai. Isliye woh aise chocolaty chehre ke madhyam se chunav ladna chahti hai.”
Kailash Vijayvargiya, senior BJP Leader
“One of the most awaited entries in Indian politics is finally here! While people may debate the timing, exact role and position, to me, the real news is that she finally decided to take the plunge! Congratulations and best wishes to Priyanka Gandhi.”
Prashant Kishor, Vice President, JD (U) on Twitter
“Thrilled that she is entering electoral politics. Hope she will contribute to politics. We extend our best wishes to her. She is like her mother (Sonia Gandhi) and grandmother (Indira Gandhi). The people of India want her to help the party, and help her brother.”
Farooq Abdullah, Chairman, National Conference
Had the pleasure of meeting her many years ago, will always remember her for her grace & warmth. Many Congratulations #PriyankaGandhi ji on being appointed as the Gen Secretary (AICC). People across are thrilled with this news, my mother being one of them. #BestWishes
Riteish Deshmukh, Actor on Twitter
GAME CHANGER FOR ELECTIONS 2019?
Congress workers in Modi’s constituency Varanasi started chanting across the town, “Kashi ki janta kare pukar, Priyanka ho saansad hamaar (People of Varanasi want Priyanka to be their MP)”. Indeed experts are betting on Priyanka to even mount a serious challenge PM Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath on their home turf. Congress workers are even confident that Priyanka could defeat Modi.
Congress was also excluded from the SP-BSP pre-poll alliance for UP recently. This is seen as oine reason why the party decided it would mount a challenge on its own merits.
Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha quickly discounted it as a desperate move after the SP-BSP alliance was announced. But the diverse reactions among BJP ranks indicate that they are still looking for ways to counter Priyanka.
While some political analysts feel that she could affect the BJP’s chances, there is also a potential downside from the coalition perspective if her entry divides the vote banks of the SP-BSP combine.
Over successive elections, Congress’ tally has declined drastically from 83 seats in 1984 to just the Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli in 2014.
2009 is still a benchmark, when Congress got 21 seats, the best performance in the state after 1984. Thirteen of these seats were won in eastern UP. The Congress will be looking to tap its traditional voter groups of Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits.
Sure enough, the induction of Priyanka Gandhi shows that Congress is pulling no stops to emerge the pivot of the anti-Modi coalition in the upcoming general elections. As a number of regional parties are looking for ways to fight the BJP as a so-called Third Front, keeping the Congress at the centre of an alternative formation will send a strong signal to voters at the national level.
With Priyanka joining in for an active role, a lot of equations could quickly get redrawn in UP and beyond. This fact in itself is testimony to the disruptive potential that Priyanka Gandhi holds in Indian politics.