| Rahul and Priyanka on their way to Rae Bareli. (Reuters file picture)
New Delhi, March 22: Sonia Gandhi today defended son Rahul’s elevation to electoral politics against insinuations of perpetuating dynastic leadership in the Congress.
“Rahul has made a decision to contest elections. He has decided to contest from his father’s Amethi constituency. If he wins, he will look after the constituency. There is nothing more than that,” the Congress chief said during the release of the party’s manifesto here.
Fielding pointed questions from reporters whether Rahul was being named heir apparent, she emphasised her son was like any other Congress candidate.
Sonia also dismissed suggestions that the Congress under her was promoting the Nehru-Gandhi family’s leadership legacy at the cost of other leaders. “I do not think this is correct. There are plenty of other leaders in the party.”
Sonia said she vacated Amethi in favour of Rahul because he was particular about making his electoral debut from the constituency of his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi. She further said that shifting to neighbouring Rae Bareli was no problem as her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and father-in-law Feroze Gandhi had represented the seat in the past.
Faced with expected questions on Priyanka’s electoral plans now that her brother has taken the first step, Sonia said: “As I have said it many times in the past, it is for her to take a decision. When she decides, we will let you know.”
Asked whether Priyanka would concentrate on campaigning for the party, Sonia stuck to her stock reply: “If there is any decision, we will let you know.”
In this context, Sonia’s assertion, while answering a question, that she would not contest from a second constituency might be significant.
The Congress has set aside Bellary in Karnataka from where Sonia had contested in 1999. This leaves open the possibility that Priyanka may be fielded from the southern seat as speculation to this effect has been rife in party circles.
Party leaders and workers have been pressing for Priyanka to be brought into the electoral limelight as was evident today from celebrations outside the Congress’ 24 Akbar Road headquarters to mark Rahul’s decision. Amid bursting of crackers and playing of a band, party workers shouted: “Priyankaji ko bhi lao (Field Priyanka too).”
On the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Sonia said: “Let the country first decide.” Only after the people gave their verdict would the party step in, she emphasised.
Sonia also evaded a direct reply when asked whether she would consider a further slump in the party’s Lok Sabha tally a rejection of her leadership. “Let us first see what the result is,” she said.
Sonia said she was not bothered about the BJP’s talk of legislating to bar people of foreign origin from holding high constitutional posts. BJP leaders were talking about it earlier, too, she said, so “why did they not come up with a law so far'”