There are individuals and there are issues. On some occasions there is an overlap between an individual and an issue. It is not unfair to assume that in a mature democracy, when an election is fought, the emphasis should fall more on issues than on individuals. The ongoing election campaign in India is turning out, even as the campaign enters its last lap, to be a remarkable exception. After six decades, it is not possible to take shelter behind the excuse that India is still not a mature democracy. Other than Narendra Modi’s vague gestures towards development, there have been little mention of the issues that will or should determine India’s future. Most of Mr Modi’s speeches are aimed at attacking his opponents, and most of his opponents’ speeches are either counter-attacks or defensive moves. Issues fall through the trapdoor of rhetoric. No one quite knows in which direction the new government will take India. There are only apprehensions, speculations and expectations — and all these are functions of the ideological position that is adopted by voters and commentators.
Into this cauldron, a new ingredient has been thrown in by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a relatively new entrant in the campaign. It is significant that she has chosen to campaign principally in Rae Bareli and Amethi, where her mother and her brother respectively are the candidates. It is significant because it is not the fortune of the Congress that has made her come out to speak to the voters. On the contrary, she wants to ensure the victories of her closest of kin. This suggests the importance of the family, the Gandhi-Nehru family, in Indian politics. But Ms Gandhi Vadra may have unwittingly grasped a Tartar. Her entrance and her utterances have brought back attention to the business dealings of her husband, Robert Vadra. It is not surprising that questions are being asked about Mr Vadra and the wealth he has amassed. There is no clarity and transparency in this subject even though there is a growing suspicion that all is not above aboard in the matter. In her noble attempt to stand by her mother and her brother, Ms Gandhi Vadra may have opened up her flanks to attacks — and the attacks are by no means unexpected. The inability to answer the charges being levelled against Mr Vadra could well be the coup de grâce to a languishing party.