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Priyanka’s ‘bilkul nahin’ creates a flutter but real wave is unleashed by Robert’s pink revolution at the booth

Rahul and Sonia after casting their votes. Pictures by Reuters and Prem Singh

New Delhi, April 10: Many Congress leaders were today wondering not how many seats the party would win in Delhi but whether “Bilkul nahin” lacks the punch of “Do I look old?”.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who voted at the Lodhi Estate polling station this morning, was asked if she sensed a Modi wave in the country. “Bilkul nahin. Mujhe to bilkul nahin lagta (Not at all. I don’t sense one at all),” she replied.

For many Congress leaders watching her on television, this was not the Priyanka reply they were expecting in the third round of polling, with 35 days to go for the 2014 result.

Exactly five years ago, she had Modi almost speechless with a one-liner.

“Do I look old to you?” was Priyanka’s response to the Gujarat chief minister’s description of the Congress as a 125-year-old woman that had become a burden on the nation.

Then, she was campaigning for brother Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. Congress circles were enthused by her comparison of herself with the grand old party. Some even saw in it a sure sign of Priyanka gearing up to play a bigger role in the Congress — a hope they have nursed since she first campaigned with mother Sonia Gandhi in 1998, and which has again raised its head in this election.

But Priyanka made it clear today that she would stick to campaigning for her brother and mother. “I will be in Amethi and Rae Bareli,” she said at the polling booth, accompanied by husband Robert Vadra.

Some Congress leaders blame the controversies surrounding Vadra, who has been accused by the Opposition of being accorded favours by industry and a Congress state government, for Priyanka’s reluctance to play a more active role in politics.

Today, they were whispering about Vadra’s sartorial taste and asking if pink trousers were the right pick for a polling day. Congress leaders wary of Vadra even suggested the choice of trouser colour pointed to “attention-seeking behaviour”.

Priyanka, however, has in every media interaction over the years denied she is interested in active involvement in politics. In an interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV, she had said: “Frankly, I’m not sure I’ve figured out why myself, but I’m very clear I don’t want to be in politics. I’m very happy living my life the way I am. I think there are certain aspects of politics which I’m just not suited to.”

Some Congress leaders claiming to know Priyanka’s mind say she is not optimistic about the party’s prospects in 2014 and is assisting Rahul just to ensure the tally does not fall below 100 seats. She feels the Congress would save its “honour” if it gets around 120-140 and sits in the Opposition. At present, even that doesn’t look easy.