Bye Bye Priyanka, Ghar Ghar Modi

Deepak Joshi
A much hyped battle of 2019 general elections has ended without whimper. Narendra Damodardas Modi v/s Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was a contest to be held in Varanasi. It was a contest everyone waited with bated breath. But it ended in an anti-climax with Congress, India’s grand old party announcing Ajay Rai as its candidate against PM Modi.

A much hyped battle of 2019 general elections has ended without whimper.

Narendra Damodardas Modi v/s Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was a contest to be held in Varanasi. It was a contest everyone waited with bated breath. But it ended in an anti-climax with Congress, India’s grand old party announcing Ajay Rai as its candidate against PM Modi.

In Delhi, political cognoscenti are calling it a damper, ostensibly because Ajay Rai had been Congress candidate against Modi in 2014 as well and had faced the ignominy of coming third, behind Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. By re-nominating Rai the Congress has virtually given a walkover to Modi. The main battle now will between the Prime Minister and Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party nominee Shalini Yadav.

Shalini Yadav is the daughter-in-law of former Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Shyam Lal Yadav, a Congress veteran of the 1980s. Shyam Lal Yadav had represented Varanasi in the Parliament and had been given significance as Congress sought to contain the influence of Kamalapati Tripathi.

Politics and stock markets have their own definition of risk-reward paradigm - higher the risk greater can be the return. Congress’ unwillingness to field its charismatic general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reflects its refusal to learn from party’s history.

There are enough reasons to believe that the media, across all segments, was taken for a ride by the grand old party and its general secretary, who often dropped hints of the impending contest. Political manoeuvres and strategy are not played out through wink-wink, nudge-nudge behaviour.

Weapon of surprise is a key element to planning a high profile battle. Forewarned is forearmed. The media presumed that the hints dropped by their regular sources in the Congress were a precursor to a battle of 2019. The sense of let down is all pervasive. 

In 1984 Rajiv Gandhi had stunned opposition stalwarts—Atal Behari Vajpayee and Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna—by announcing Madhavrao Scindia, the scion of Gwalior royal family, and movie legend Amitabh Bachchan as candidates from Gwalior and Allahabad to challenge them. Vajpayee and Bahuguna suffered ignominious defeats. 

The game plan was to cripple the opposition by forcing the stalwarts to remain glued to their constituencies and not campaign across the country. Any plan to field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against Prime Minister Modi to be effective would have meant announcing it immediately after she had been named general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It would have forced Modi to remain in constituency for several days, thereby disrupting the nationwide campaign momentum of the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

With only 240 constituencies going to polls in next four phases, the impact of Priyanka’S supposed contest would have been minimal. Voting for 302 Lok Sabha seats has already been conducted. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waits for another day to try her political fortunes.

The lesson for the media is grave: It is vulnerable to be taken for a ride by their so-called political sources.