Is the elevation of Gandhi scion a desperate gamble or a prudent gambit?
Twenty-two years ago, in the Titan Cup cricket tournament, India played Australia in Bangalore in a nail-biting encounter that is still remembered by many cricket fans for the pulsating ninth-wicket stand between the unlikely batting pair of Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble who put together 52 runs and helped the home team snatch an improbable victory from the mouths of defeat.
Following that match, the Indian think tank had a brainwave: play Srinath as a pinch-hitter all through the tournament. This move at that moment was hailed as a master stroke. An instance of inspired thinking.
Now, some of you may be wondering what has that Titan Cup tournament got to do with a piece on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Well, the point is the elevation of Priyanka as the Congress general secretary of Uttar Pradesh East has the same making as that of dramatically pushing Srinath up in the batting ranks in the hope of confusing the rivals.
It is now pertinent to point out here that the go-for-broke plan to bat Srinath up the order, which was celebrated as a cunning stratagem, turned out to be nothing more than a hollow act of desperation. Save for an iffy fifty, the elevation of the speedster never really came off as he made mostly single-digit scores only.
Certain sections of the media that are predictably hyping the Congress move as a spectacular salvo would do well to remember that deeds of prudent audacity are usually hard to tell apart from acts of wild recklessness.
The Priyanka elevation is something that the events to follow alone can adjudge, and in that sense, all those blaring news reports and capitalised headlines seem premature, and dare one say, puerile. To cockily play the developments as if the Congress has already captured Uttar Pradesh is totally wrong and can actually backfire on the party, as it can impel its opponents to double their own efforts.
Of course, it makes plenty of sense from the Congress’s point of view to make a gambit with Priyanka as the party is already scraping the bottom of the barrel, and losers have to sometimes fall back on desperate derring-do.
In a way, it was an inevitable elevation. But it also smacks of the typical Gandhi hubris that has seen the party lose its hold across the country. Apart from being a notional caretaker of the her mother’s constituency, Priyanka’s political CV practically runs blank. Okay, she has a passing resemblance to Indira Gandhi.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Just look at the name once again. It is a careful and cunning construct. See how the crutches of Gandhi is juxtaposed so that the troubling Vadra surname is kept away from Priyanka. It is optics, stupid. Right from the name, everything is painstakingly built for her so that she comes across as an unsullied angel.
Remember her hush-hush visit to the Vellore prison in 2008 to meet Nalini Sriharan, one of the conspirators in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case? The thing is it was never meant to be a hush-hush meeting, as a local advocate was adequately tipped off to file an RTI and get the information about the meeting, and the story was eventually spun off as Priyanka coming to meet her father's assassins and find closure and peace in her mind. How noble! This along with her mother Sonia getting Nalini's death sentence commuted to life sentence made a mockery of the pain of the kith and kin of all those perished in that bomb blast along with Rajiv at Sriperumbudur.
Aside from the fact that it is a reflection of the standard dynastic cult in the party, the foisting of Priyanka is also Congress tacitly accepting that Rahul’s politics isn’t exactly working. The problem with dynastic politics is that it is hard to tell what part of genes get transferred in the family chain. It is an unpredictable lottery. Rajiv never exhibited his mom's native cunning for smart politics, and instead seemed to have inherited her derision for democracy and its institutions.
So in that sense, to continue to bank on the likes of Priyanka and Rahul is in itself a major risk. But you cannot begrudge the Congress taking chances. It is in such an unenviable position where it has to take high-risk gambles. It has nothing to lose.
Priyanka, of course, will have nothing to lose ever. She will be hailed as a saviour if the move works. She will still be seen as a saviour even if the idea doesn't click. That is Congress for you.
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Last Updated Jan 24, 2019, 2:13 PM IST