Hope flows on Priyanka’s trail, so does doubt

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s much-touted political debut outside of the Gandhis’ political home turf of Amethi and Raebareli happened today in Uttar Pradesh with predictable gusto, with the Congress reacting as though this was the best thing to happen to the party since its inauguration.

Okay, that is an obvious exaggeration. But if you were in Lucknow and anywhere near Priyanka’s cavalcade, you would not have thought so. For, such was the over-the-top feelings of the Congress crowds that, one would have thought, Priyanka has more or less already won the elections for the party.

In Priyanka, the Congress workers see a figure who can be absolutely talismanic to their chances of victory. In their enthusiasm, they would seem to be counting the eggs even before they have arrived at the hatchery.

That, sirs, could be precisely the problem for the Congress.

Priyanka, to be sure, brings to the table a reassuring approach and a confident stride that even after so many years of constant cushioning by all and sundry Rahul Gandhi is unable to purvey.

In that sense, Priyanka’s positivity is what-the-doctor-ordered kind for the Congress.

But does she have what it takes to make the Congress cross the line?

“All her credentials are so far hearsay. We are told that she is a good leader and has good organisational skills. Pray where is the proof for this?” asks M K Singh, a Kanpur-based political analyst, trenchantly. “Just because she is the daughter of a former Prime Minister and the Granddaughter of another Prime Minister, she doesn’t become good for a leadership role. At any rate, Rajiv Gandhi never seemed to have inherited his mother’s non-nonsense leadership approach,” he adds.

Though, on the face it, it might seem a little caustic and uncharitable, Priyanka doesn’t seem to have any heft in her political CV. She has been mostly caretaker of Amethi and Raebareli, two constituencies that anyway don’t need much caretaking.

“Media outlets are gushing about her resemblance to Indira Gandhi. What is the surprise in this? Seriously, it is a surprise and worthy of news if she actually resembles, say, Pratibha Patil,” says V S Pradhan, a BJP worker in Lucknow.

Of course, Pradhan’s views are skewed and contrarian. But what he says carries a ring of truth, and he adds, “See, all I am trying to point out is the media is trying to build a case for Priyanka and hence are trying play up her qualities. And the only obvious thing that can be said without any fear of contradiction is that she looks a lot like her grandma.”

Congressmen in Lucknow, it goes without saying, have no time for such sarcasm. They feel that once Priyanka gets down to work, even the SP-BSP alliance group will work out some kind of understanding with the Congress. “Just wait and see, she will work aggressively. Already the SP has toned down its antipathy towards us. It is only a matter of time before, things start getting better for us. It is a sign for hope for us,” a Congress worker said at the Priyanka roadshow today.

From living on a prayer, Congress has now moved to hope.  That is a sign of development.

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