The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 15 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Congress hears more in a ‘no’
Theory: a rout can change her mind

Priyanka arrives to cast her vote for the general election in New Delhi last Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, April 14: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today again voiced her disinclination to contest elections but the Congress tried to draw hope for the future from her admission that brother Rahul had wanted her to fight the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

Senior Congress leaders told The Telegraph that the clamour for Priyanka to enter active politics was likely to keep growing even after the elections, especially if the party was routed.

In a statement, she ruled herself out of the fray and denied a report that it was the party leadership that had stopped her from contesting in Varanasi against Narendra Modi.

“No one in my family would ever stop me from contesting an election. My brother, mother and husband would wholeheartedly support me if I wanted to contest,” she said.

“My decision to not contest is personal. I will only change it when I feel from within I should.”

But Priyanka sent pulses racing in the Congress when she said: “My brother has expressed to me many times that he thinks I should contest.”

She added that she would continue to focus on managing the campaigns of Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi.

An All India Congress Committee official suggested that things could change after the announcement of the election results. “If the party fails to win at least 100 seats, there will be renewed calls for Priyanka to step in,” he said.

The party official clarified that nobody would question Sonia’s or Rahul’s leadership even after a debacle, given the Nehru-Gandhi family’s contributions and Sonia’s record of delivering back-to-back victories in 2004 and 2009.

“At the same time, there will be a clamour for accountability. Priyanka could step in to contain the sense of despondency,” he said.

Apparently, a Congress lobby is a little apprehensive about Rahul’s ability to lead from the front and boost the party’s morale if it is forced to sit in the Opposition.

In such a situation, many in the party feel, it would be better if Rahul focused on his role as leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha while Priyanka handled organisational matters.

Behind the scenes, Priyanka has been playing a key role in poll management. When Rahul’s focus on “winnability” and his strict candidate selection criteria left some party seniors disgruntled, Priyanka is said to have stepped in as peacemaker.

She is also known to chair meetings to finalise ad campaigns and throw up talking points.

Today, BJP leader Arun Jaitley alleged that the “Gandhis are under siege”.

He wrote in a blog: “The family charisma has faded away. The real solution to the problem is to make Congress a more structured party. The Congress party solution is, if one incumbent in the family fails, the alternative can only be another member of the family.”

A Congress source said it had been clear anyway that Priyanka wouldn’t contest this election. He claimed the Congress had come to know as early as last November that Modi would be contesting from Varanasi.

“Had Priyanka been interested, she would have paid frequent visits to the city and put the manpower and party structure in place,” a working committee member said.

He cited how Priyanka had taken charge of the Amethi and Rai Bareli parliamentary seats about a year ago. “These days you need to mobilise resources at the block level and map constituencies with over a million voters. Elections cannot be won in a fortnight or a month.”

Priyanka yesterday took time off from campaigning for her brother in Amethi to visit son Raihan at Doon School, Dehradun, media reports said.

She arrived at Dehradun on a chartered flight and returned in the evening.