Did Ticket to Urmila Matondkar Pave Way for Priyanka Chaturvedi’s Exit From Congress?

Most people who have worked with Priyanka Chaturvedi over the last couple of years describe her as aspirational and ambitious.

New Delhi: On June 19, 2015, Priyanka Chaturvedi, then a firebrand Congress member, took to Twitter to ask some pertinent questions: “How can you wake up one fine morning and change your ideology like you change your clothes? Or was your ideology just about being in power?” she asked. She didn’t take any names.

The tweet has come back to haunt her now - four years after she posted it - as she starts her new innings with the Shiv Sena after a decade with the grand old party of India. But looks like Chaturvedi was prepared for the onslaught, even before it began. Soon after she announced her switch to the Shiv Sena, a party she had called out for corruption in an old tweet, Chaturvedi declared that she knew people would ask questions and her decision was bound to raise a few eyebrows, but the decision was taken after much thought.

Most people who have worked with her over the last couple of years describe her as aspirational and ambitious. While a majoritarian view would be that there is nothing wrong with that, the 39-year-old has accused the Congress of ignoring the same.

Raised in Mumbai, Chaturvedi graduated in commerce and started her career with an event management company before joining the Congress in 2010. Within two years, she was the general secretary of the Youth Congress from north-west Mumbai. Slowly, she rose up the ranks and was eventually made national spokesperson for the party. “What really happened was that the party showed her a lot of dreams, and those combined with her own dreams of being a leading politician didn’t come through with the Congress,” said one person who worked with her.

This sentiment is also evident in Chaturvedi’s resignation letter. She is quite vocal about her fight for women’s empowerment and gender justice, something that she now accuses the Congress of missing out on.

She is said to have earlier given the Congress a few days to fix this. After she called out the party on the 17th of this month for reinstating the “lumpen goons” who had misbehaved with her at a rally in Mathura, she waited for the “right people” in the party to reach out to her and fix what was done. But that didn’t happen.

Things had already gone south when actress Urmila Matondkar was given a Congress ticket from Mumbai. Chaturvedi was irked, a feeling she made clear at Friday’s press conference. Further, a ticket to Devashish Jarariya from Bhind was another move that ticked her off. Jarariya was part of the BSP until November 2018 and for him to get a ticket within months of joining the party was a setback for Chaturvedi.

Known to not keep silent after a hit, Chaturvedi is believed to have been in touch with the Sena over the last couple of months, with things taking shape soon after the announcement of the candidates.

There are voices that claim Chaturvedi, irrespective of her strong command over communication and language, never had a “following” big enough for her to be given a ticket. Many within the Congress believe she was just an opportunist. Take, for example, Congress leader Sanjay Jha who said that with this move, “political opportunism touches a new nadir…self-righteous bullshit is sickening.”

The majoritarian response to her quitting the party has been that this is Congress’s loss and Sena’s gain. She capitulated everyone’s attention with her calm and composed attacks on the Opposition, especially on the ruling BJP. Only recently, she had slammed union minister Smriti Irani over her education qualification, coining the term “kyunki mantri bhi kabhi graduate thi.”

Congress’s silence (more or less) on her exit has also fanned other murmurs about the development having shaken the basic structure of the party. Considering how involved a member she was, Chaturvedi quitting in between the Lok Sabha elections is something the party did not expect. And now that it has happened, it remains to be seen how this pans out for Congress and Shiv Sena.