Priyanka's UP Dharna Will Satisfy Only The Congress

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress General Secretary (East), spent a night at a Mirzapur UP state guest house as she refused to furnish a bail bond for trying to breach peace in the area. This followed day-long dharna in Mirzapur after she was stopped from visiting the village in Sonbhadra where ten tribals were shot dead two days ago in a land dispute.

Gandhi says she won't leave till she is allowed to meets the families of those who were killed.

By now, you would read all the breathless takes on how Gandhi Vadra suffered a night vigil without electricity (reportedly power was cut by the Yogi government) and did not budge. These days, this sort of commentary pours forth from analysts desperate to prove that an opposition exists to Modi's massive majority.

So enough of the gush over Gandhi Vadra's Belchi moment. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is not Indira Gandhi and 2019 is not 1977. Then, the Congress was a flourishing presence in Uttar Pradesh; today, it is a has-been with zero ground traction.


Priyanka Gandhi spent the night at a guest house in UP's Mirzapur.

After her defeat in the 1977 Lok Sabha polls, Indira Gandhi emerged from her self-imposed political exile by visiting the Belchi village atop an elephant where upper castes had killed 11 Dalits a couple of months earlier. It marked her resurgence in national politics.

The BJP dismisses Gandhi Vadra as a "picnic" politician to underline the episodic nature of her political engagement. Says a senior member of the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, "We miscalculated and detained her. That is why she is drawing mileage but in the larger picture, it means nothing but headlines. Anyway, all of UP knows Priyanka comes (here) only for the elections like a tourist."

This is crude but true. The most meaning that Gandhi Vadra's overnight dharna could draw was that it was far more effective than the meaningless boat ride down the Ganga that she ventured on before the elections. Secondly, she beat both regional leaders, Akhilesh Yadav of and Mayawati, to positioning herself in meeting the families of those who died.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh hailed PGV's "Belchi" moment on Twitter and ironically asked party workers to reach the her guest house in large numbers while not exactly stirring himself to rush to the spot.

Both those leaders have other preoccupations. Yadav is trying to stem the flow of his Rajya Sabha MPs to the BJP. Mayawati was busy addressing a presser to complain about the seizure of an allegedly benami property of her brother worth ₹400 crores.


Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with victims of Sonbhadra massacre in BHU hospital in Varanasi.

Rahul Gandhi, the ex Congress  president who is currently abroad, tweeted support for his sister and called her detention "unconstitutional".

So does PGV's night vigil indicate that the Congress is out of its political paralysis post the huge election defeat and RG's resignation? Not quite. Yes, PGV has delivered a big political moment for the party but not on a scale large enough to eclipse her underwhelming political debut and the image of a politician who promises much and then doesn't deliver. The biggest example of that is the hype she built up herself about contesting against Modi from Varanasi only to then drop out.

The Gandhi family is obsessed with Uttar Pradesh but the last time the party did well in the state was in 2009. This time around, despite PGV's debut in a formal political role in the state, Gandhi lost his traditional seat of Amethi. And PGV, in a silly display of tone deafness and entitlement, publicly upbraided party workers for that disaster.

Months after the elections, the Congress party is still trying to work out the puzzle of who will replace Rahul Gandhi as its president. A huge battle has broken out between Sonia Gandhi's old guard and some young Turks who are believed to have the support of Rahul Gandhi in staking claim to running the Congress.

With the entire Gandhi clan now in active politics, it will take a fam jam to find a solution.

As long as as the family occupy any role except supreme leader, the new party president will be perceived as  a family prop with real power being elsewhere.

One of the younger leaders says "We are now being told that PGV will be a sort of chief campaigner for the party and RG the head of an ideology think tank. But where would it leave the puppet chief?"

Not surprisingly, no leader wants the party president's job. Which is why the Congress Working Committee meeting to decide on a new president has been shelved indefinitely.

Meanwhile, while Gandhi makes headlines in UP, other states like Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand (and later Delhi) will see elections now. The Congress is in a coma in all the states. Impatient Maharashtra ally Sharad Pawar has given the Congress a deadline to decide on seat sharing in Maharashtra. No response from the Congress which is busy with internal feuds in the state unit.

If PGV is telling the UP voter that she is in the running for the 2022 assembly elections, she will have to find herself an address in Lucknow and take lessons from Amit Shah in how to build a party structure from the ground up. Nothing else will do. The UP voter will reject any sort of occasional foray.

And, yes sort out the central leadership.

(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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