Capital Grapevine
Capital Matters

Capital Grapevine

Virendra Kapoor

Priyanka Vadra the politician: A desperate face-lift for the Rahul Congress

Priyanka Gandhi’s long expected plunge into politics is set to make the Congress bipolar. Already, those who were singing paeans to Rahul Gandhi till yesterday have changed tack, asserting that she will be a better vote-getter than him. Sooner or later, the chatter within the party will sharpen bipolarity, creating two groups, one owing allegiance to the brother and the other to the sister. All in the family, of course, but nonetheless corrosive of kinship. And, therefore, destructive of coherence which is absolutely necessary for any party.

But, as of now, the brother and sister can bask in the over-the-top media reception that followed the formal announcement of her induction in the family firm as general secretary in-charge of eastern UP. The unabashed fawning over Priyanaka the politician suggested as if she has already conquered India but for that minor nuisance of an election. Media sycophants, both print and TV, joined the delirious Congressmen to make it out that the poll too would soon be won. And that usurper Modi, a ~chaiwala, ~ will go back to being one again, even as Rahul is anointed prime minister with a doting sister on his side and the great and good Robert Vadra beaming from ear to ear standing close by, contemplating what he will make of the mandate to resume expanding his ill-gotten empire after a Modi-imposed hiatus of five years.

Should we be surprised the way the Congress, the media, even other parties have reacted to the Priyanka entry into the murky business of politics? We think not. For, India is a great paradox. Constitutionally, we are a democratic republic but most of our political parties are dynastic. Leadership of all parties, barring the Communists and the BJP, routinely passes from one generation to the next without a murmur in protest. The last time someone protested he found himself ejected out with sheer contempt.

It is a different matter that since then Sharad Pawar has reconciled himself to doing business with the same dynasty. And is ready to grovel before the next generation for staying relevant in his small pocket-borough of western Maharashtra. Of course, we cannot blame the owner- scions of the party for keeping the top leadership strictly reserved for themselves since, eventually, they seek endorsement from voters who, swayed by caste, creed, money, et al, elect them election after election.

Scan the entire political scene and it is bound to strike you that not only the Congress but even every regional party without exception is now a family-owned business. Therefore, it is futile to fault the formal entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into politics. She was all along active behind- the-scenes, roping in that jocular figure Navjot Singh Siddhu into the party and clinching the disastrous pact with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party ahead of the 2017 UP Assembly poll.

However, there is merit in the charge that Rahul has wheeled in his sister as party general secretary, assigning her the charge of eastern UP, because he himself did not feel up to the task of salvaging the fortunes of the party , nay, of the dynasty. Following the unilateral BSP-SP pact which divided between them the 80 parliamentary seats, leaving two on mercy grounds for the Congress’s controlling family, Rahul took a huge gamble by deciding to contest all of them on his own. Priyanka’s formal entry is meant to signal to the Bua- Babua twosome that even now it may not be too late to let in the Congress under their protective umbrella.

Coming days will reveal whether the two main regional parties are sufficiently impressed by the entry of Priyanka Vadra Gandhi to accommodate the Congress in the alliance. Of course, the chances of Mayawati playing ball remain slim, her reasoning being that risking the revival of the Congress would ultimately weaken her hold on her captive Dalit vote-bank. Besides, her supporters transfer votes to her allies, voters of the allies don’t.

Priyanka faces an uphill task reviving the moribund party organization in UP, especially when its popular vote-share has remained in single figure for decades. The fact that even in the pocket-boroughs of Amethi and Rai Bareilly the family had to send an SOS to the SP and the BSP in the last election underlines the near irrelevance of the Congress in the largest state in the country. The much-touted charisma which she is supposed to possess --- and, which, the Congress supporters insist, Rahul lacks, might come to naught in a most polarized electorate, divided as it is into mutually hostile segments on caste and religious lines.

Besides, with the deepening of democracy and growing voter awareness thanks to the information revolution wrought by the 24x7 television channels and ubiquitous smart phones, a photogenic persona might prove woefully inadequate to fetch votes for the Congress. Days of a ~mai-baap~ sarkar are long behind us. People now want results, good outcomes --- and not merely abuses against the ruling party and empty slogans.

Again, Modi is no push-over. His record in office might well have fallen short of the extravagant promises made in 2014, but he has delivered where it matters most. The life-altering services like the provision of millions of LPG connections to fire rural ~chulahas~, electrification of thousands of villages and rural homes, direct delivery of various subsidies into the Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, millions of houses for the poor, free medical insurance for millions, and above all, the looters and plunderers of corporate world with most stringent measures to recover public money UPA distributed like Diwali ~laddoos~, etc., etc., will not make it easy for anyone to take him on in eastern or western UP where yet another princeling, Jyotiraditya Scindia, has been assigned the impossible task of reviving the Congress.

Last but not the least, the scams surrounding Vadra, which, notably, were reported in great detail by the media when the UPA was still in power, would dog his wife at every step. Of course, corruption and Congress have remained inseparable for as long as we can recall, with no member of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, now or in the past, having held a decent day job to justify their Maharaja-like life-style.

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Vadra tweets ‘P’

Robert Vadra used Twitter to congratulate `P.~ Normal people would coo congrats into the ears of one’s spouse --- unless, of course, they don’t live under the same roof. Or could it be that the moment his wife fulfilled his long-standing demand by moving a step closer to establishing her own claim on the family firm, he was announcing his own stake in it. Vadra’s sidekick, one Jagdish Sharma, whom he got nominated as a member of the Delhi Golf Club, had been plastering posters for years demanding, ~ Priyanaka Lao, Congress Bachao. ~ Pointedly, pasting them on the AICCC walls. If further proof was needed of his being an extra-constitutional power during the UPA decade, please remember the lawyer who defended him in the court and outside on television channels in scam-related cases was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

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For once …

* For once, the Modi government and the Congress Party are on the same page. Modi is running a Beti Bachao campaign while the Congress has launched its own version: `Beti , Bachao’.

* For once, the Opposition is right. Modi has created such joblessness there were as many as twenty-three candidates for one job of prime minister on Mamata Didi’s stage in Kolkata the other day. Amen.