LS POLLS: Priyanka makes her debut, but no high marks

GANDHINAGAR  The new Congress face, its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, held forth briefly at her first public address outside UP on Tuesday, at an event which also turned out to be the launch of the party’s 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign. As the new leader presented herself, she seemed failing to establish a connect with the masses — something her idol and grandmother Indira Gandhi was adept at. That connect might, hopefully, come later. 

Notably, huge cutouts of Indira Gandhi were prominently placed at the rally venue, to draw a parallel.

Priyanka stated at the outset that she was not giving a speech, but pouring out her feelings from her heart about the state of the nation and its people. But, the about 10 minute speech was feeble in its tone — in a land where BJP’s main gun for years, Narendra Modi, held forth with the poise of a lion. 

The occasion for the Congress rally was the Congress Working Committee meet, away from the centre-stage of New Delhi, and right in the den of Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. With a string of MLAs deserting the Congress party and heading for the BJP in Gujarat of late, the mood was palpably not in the Congress’ favour. Yet, expectations were that this being the first public address of new party general secretary, the rally was worth a watch. A modest crowd attended the rally, a far cry from the huge rallies PM Modi addressed in Gujarat and elsewhere. 

As Priyanka Gandhi spoke in a feeble, feminine voice, the difference was stark in comparison with the measured tones, and the highs and lows, of an Indira Gandhi speech. “Aaap Sochna Padega, eh chunav kya hai?” Priyanka said at the outset.

Debutant Priyanka Gandhi urged partymen to focus their election campaign on definite planks like women safety, farmer distress and joblessness among the youths. There, she said, was no need to harp on a lot of issues. Not for her the allegations surrounding the Rafale jet deal — obviously also because it could boomerang on her party and the Nehru family. 

PM Modi had started accusing the Congress of raking up issues and delaying the purchase of the fighter jets, something that was “affecting the morale” of the Indian Air Force and failing to equip it in a more effective manner. 

“Your votes is your weapon, Your awareness is your weapon,” the new Congress leader said, also adding, “what is coming up is nothing less than another Independence struggle. She asked,” Where are the jobs that were promised” Where are the deposits of Rs 15lakh in every common man’s account, as was promised (by PM Modi in the 2014 poll campaign). “Eh pandrah lakh kahan gaye?” All, oft-repeated themes. 

Not even once did she mention Prime Minister or Narendra Modi. “Think and decide,” she told her audience, which mostly sat through the speech silently and cheered her a couple of times. She also said the nation was now being enveloped by hatred to one another. And, long-established institutions were under threat, she said. 

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were prominently present in the Congress events Tuesday. IHN-NN


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