By Rasheed Kidwai
Tamasha na hua... the hype surrounding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's move to contest from Varanasi turned out to be a damp squib. The non-starter has a potential of damaging and demoralising Congress morale.
It was bizarre and strange that Priyanka versus Narendra Modi narrative was started by the Congress and stoked by "sources" till it turned out to be a hoax.
This drama or tamasha had some similarities with a similar hype over Congress-Aam Admi Party alliance in Delhi. The collective failure to stitch an alliance showed both Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal desperate players who had trust deficit. Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal appeared equally naive, immature and ridiculous throughout.
Priyanka Gandhi, who has charisma and connect with the masses, seems unaware how her persona is taking a beating due to these gimmicks.
She seems to be weighed down by heavily perceived hierarchies within the Congress and the quality of in-house advice rather than acting as per her political instincts.
Priyanka Gandhi and her coterie may think that spinning wisecracks that it is up to the Congress president to take a call on the vexed issue of her contesting from Varanasi.
For the outside world, this is not funny.
Everyone knows that was an issue between brother and sister who spend considerable hours together and are known to be on same wavelength.
Inside 10 Janpath, it is small world consisting of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi where the young sister is known to be more vocal, spontaneous and political.
Therefore, the issue of contesting or not contesting would have been settled over a cup of tea or a meal together they are able to squeeze in at least once a day.
One can go on arguing the merits of actor Akshay Kumar interviewing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But Gandhis, particularly debutant Priyanka Gandhi has all opportunity to give a political interview to any TV network and draw mileage.
If overshadowing Rahul is a reason for a no-show, the Congress is in trouble in the near future too. Voter and masses have little or zero interest in the game of one upmanship that coterie or spin doctors wish to play.
The Congress appears to be struggling to inch closer to the 100-seat mark. Under 100 Lok Sabha seats will reflect poorly on the three Gandhis who are campaigning and fighting a grim battle. They need to demonstrate courage of conviction, confidence and leadership qualities regardless of the outcome on May 23, 2019.
(Rasheed Kidwai is a visiting Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Views are personal)