Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's launch into politics shows the Congress will not hold back its big guns and will pull out all the stops before the general elections, senior leader Shashi Tharoor said, asserting his party wants "defenestration" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
"Priyanka Gandhi is seen as a figure with great appeal and great credibility. So far, she has been very restrained, doing behind the scenes work and confining herself to Amethi and Rae Bareli. The fact that she is now going to take a new role is a sign that we are not holding back our big guns," Shashi Tharoor, 62, told Press Trust of India on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Priyanka Gandhi, 47, will debut as Congress general secretary in charge of the party's campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh, home to PM Modi's Varanasi constituency.
She has the charisma to galvanise voters and will be an asset to the party, Mr Tharoor said. He believed that while Priyanka Gandhi has yet to prove her mettle publicly, privately the party has seen her involved in a number of issues.
"Those who have seen her even on television know how quickly she makes a connection, how fluently and idiomatically she speaks and how easily she connects with the people. She doesn't behave like a political novice," he said.
Mr Tharoor, who recently wrote a book on Modi titled "The Paradoxical Prime Minister", said the prime minister makes liberal statements in public such as "sab ka saath sab ka vikas" (together with all, development for all) or the "Constitution is my only holy book", but relies on the "most illiberal" elements in the Indian society for his electoral support and political viability.
"The Congress party intends to aim for Modi's defenestration. We want Modi and his government's defenestration," he said, flaunting his vocabulary by turning to a rarely used word.
Mr Tharoor questioned what he called the prime minister's "complete silence" on issues like cow vigilantism, re-conversions and love jihad, saying paradox remained central to PM Modi's leadership.
"Modi is the best orator in Hindi that I have seen. Yet he has remained silent when his moral leadership was called on. He modulates his voice, chooses his words to the maximum impact, uses theatrical gestures. That is part of his major political appeal. Why can't he speak when the country is crying out for a voice to share the pain of the families of Mohammad Akhlaq, Juniad Khan, Pehlu Khan, Rohith Vemula or for the Dalit boys who were flogged in Rajasthan for skinning the carcass of a cow which was their job? Nothing on any of these cases from him. Just complete and total silence," he said.
Mr Tharoor also touched upon the controversial remark he made at the Bangalore Literature Festival, where he claimed that an unnamed RSS leader had compared PM Modi to "a scorpion sitting on a Shivling".
The Congress leader said he cited the news article to prove there was evidence that the RSS was not fully comfortable with the conversion of Hindutva to Moditva.
"Ironically, I even found a video clip of Gordhan Zadaphia saying exactly this and he may not be the only one to have said it. Zadaphia was a Gujarat Minister who is now one of the UP in-charges for the BJP. So if someone who is very much RSS-BJP has said this openly and on record, then I don't think I was wrong in quoting it," he said.
With inputs from PTI