The Telegraph
Saturday , August 9 , 2014
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Priyanka nips ‘palace coup’ in the bud
Cold water on ‘baseless rumours’ of party post

Priyanka Gandhi campaigns for brother Rahul in Amethi ahead of the general election. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Intense speculation about her getting an important post in the Congress and the BJP leadership’s talk of a possible palace coup today forced Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to issue a formal denial.

In a statement issued in the evening, Priyanka said: “The constant conjecture about my assuming various posts in the Congress party and the manner in which this issue is brought up at opportune moments is incorrect. I would be very grateful to all concerned if they desisted from baseless rumours.”

The brief statement may not entirely stamp out the speculation because this is being fed into the media by two kinds of Congressmen: one, who desperately believe Priyanka is being wasted and the other who are angry with Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

The latest trigger was reports that Priyanka would be made AICC general secretary soon after the next round of Assembly elections. There were suggestions that Sonia Gandhi would retire after these polls, leaving the party president’s post to Rahul and making Priyanka a general secretary. This created intense churning in Congress circles. Finance minister Arun Jaitley added to the buzz when he argued that Rahul was afraid of a possible palace coup.

Top sources in the Congress firmly denied such a possibility and asked if Sonia could even think of retirement when the party was passing through its worst phase. Most senior leaders felt Sonia would have to scale up her engagement at a time Rahul’s leadership has come under scrutiny.

Many senior leaders told The Telegraph in informal conversations that Priyanka was keenly interested in establishing her brother’s leadership and she would do nothing to create doubts at this stage. They said Priyanka’s supportive role was known to everyone and that the family was not planning to disinvest in Rahul no matter how big the debacle in the Lok Sabha election.

One senior leader and former Union minister made an interesting point: “New leaders come when people look for them. When people have lapped up Narendra Modi and he is at his peak, why play your card unnecessarily? Wait for his popularity to decline and then exploit the people’s craving for a new leader. And who knows you all will see hope in Rahul when Modi fails to deliver on his false promises.”

The Congress has officially maintained that Priyanka had restricted herself to Amethi and Rae Bareli and there was no change in the scheme. Yesterday, new spokesperson Shobha Oza managed to create some confusion by asking for all three to provide leadership. But sources were quick to point out that a poorly-crafted answer to a media query does not alter the party’s internal dynamics.

It is true that a large number of Congress people are deeply sceptical of Rahul’s abilities and want Priyanka to take over. They would shed no tears if Rahul were driven out of politics. But that is not the leadership’s scheme, and future politics will centre around Rahul unless the party shows no signs of revival and a revolt erupts. Priyanka will come eventually as she is a Congress leader but expecting Rahul to be eased out is premature, party sources said.

The party is aware that no denial from spokespersons would curb the speculation, hence the clarification from Priyanka herself. Statements from Sonia or Rahul could have been misinterpreted by those conjuring a palace coup.