SAYS PRIYANKA: ‘Party decided I will not fight polls from Varanasi’, as it would affect campaign in 40 other seats

NEW DELHI: Explanation as to why Congress general secretary Priyanka Vadra opted out of a proposed electoral contest in Varanasi came from the horse’s own mouth. Priyanka said she consulted party leaders and they were of the view that she would need to concentrate on the job she was assigned — namely  take care of the poll campaign in 41 Lok Sabha constituencies in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“If, instead, I concentrate one one constituency, I will not be able to give attention to all the other 40,” she was quoted as telling the media on Tuesday. “From the start, I had said I would do what my party says. My party decided this so I am going with that,” she said.

The Congress party, instead chose what is seen to be a weak candidate for Varanasi. The SP-BSP combine too is fielding a candidate, but Modi towers over the other contestants in Hinduism’s holy town. Modi’s roadshow a day before he filed his nomination papers had taken Varanasi by storm, with large numbers of his supporters flooding the town for the show hours before the start of the procession from BHU area. It showed Modi’s popularity remains undiminished. 

It will now be incumbent on Priyanka to prove she can. If she is able to get at least half the number of the 41 seats for the Congress party, she can breathe easy thereafter. But, given the present conditions, this will be a tall order. She might, who knows, have the last laugh too. Results cannot be predicted either way. 

According to political observers and officials in Varanasi, the PM nursed his constituency well with generous allocations of funds for various infra and other projects. “People are happy with what they got,” an offiical said, though it was also true that Modi as PM did not make much of a personal appearance in the constituency. 

The Congress party knew as much, and hence decided not to field Priyanka. If she lost the polls, which was quite likely, it would leave behind a scar on her political life. If eventually Rahul Gandhi fails, Priyanka is the trump card that the Congress leadership — read Sonia Gandhi — keeps by way of a stand-by arrangement. 

The results of this round of LS polls are crucial for Rahul Gandhi. If he brings a decent number of seats for the Congress party, there would be no looking back for the Prince. Those like West Bengal chief minister who keeps harping on the “junior” status of Rahul Gandhi — so that she can project herself as “senior” and demand PM post — will then have to shut her mouth. 

After PM Modi rose to become Prime Minister, several aspiring CMs across the country are hoping to be PM one day. For decades in the past, the PM post was a privilege of the Nehru family. The family has undergone transformation of sorts over these decades, new generations have stepped in to lead the Congress party and its governments, or did back-seat driving as in situations when Dr Manmohan Singh was put in the PM post. A PV Narasimha Rao, another non-Nehru family PM after the demise of Rajiv Gandhi in the 1990s, listened to newly anointed Nehru family head Sonia Gandhi, but only to a point. 

Others who nurse PM ambitions reportedly include Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu, HD Deve Gowda and Sharad Pawar; that’s if an opportunity beckons. This apart from the likes of Nitin Gadkari in the BJP itself. He has made his money, and is seen to be among the ministers whom Modi could not control because of his RSS links in Nagpur. 

Gadkari’s past is blemished, as a former minister in Maharashtra, yet he got away with such allegations. At the Centre, under Modi, he headed the roads and highways ministry. Assumptions are that if the BJP does not get a majority in the coming Lok Sabha, the Shiv Sena might up the ante against Modi and root for Gadkari as per a suspected hidden plan. Gadkari vehemently denies he has PM ambitions.

Chandrababu Naidu, seen by many as the Joker of the pack, too is financially well-endowed and would be willing to play a trick or two. So with Deve Gowda, whose son is heading the JDS-Congress government in Karnataka, the capital of which is the cash-rich dubiously-linked contractors’ paradise, Bengaluru. If Naidu gets a CM post, his son Lokesh waiting in the wings for CM post can step into his father’s shoes in Amaravati sooner than later. This, on condition that entities like the YSRC’s Jagan and BC leader and actor Pawan Kalyan do not sweep Naidu’s TDP under the carpet in the assembly polls.  –IHN=NN


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