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Bypass Politics

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Considering Priyanka Gandhi’s high profile within the Congress and the work she has put in to advance its prospects during elections, the pressure has always been there to induct her into formal politics. That this did not happen till now was because another, more dominant faction within the party did not want her to overshadow her brother in the popularity stakes. Since much of her work has been in UP, it was only natural to expect that she would play a larger role there, beginning with contesting for the Lok Sabha. That would have put one lot of supporters, advisers and mentors closer to power and made another lot more irrelevant. It is this tug-of-war that is being resolved by declaring Priyanka the Congress candidate from Wayanad. With her initiation in the politics of South India, it will be a new chapter for her, reducing her influence in the North.

Congress strategists should be aware that it is not so much the popularity of the Nehru-Gandhis that won the critical seats of Amethi, Raebareli and Wayanad, it was more the anti-BJP vote. It is true that this mood was generated by the INDI Alliance propaganda on saving the constitution, caste-census, protecting reservations, along with some mouth-watering freebies, etc. The arithmetic of caste combinations was brought about more by the unusual willingness of Samajwadi Party supporters to vote for another party, in this case the Congress. So, there is not much to be taken for granted when planning for the future, particularly that of the Gandhis. The condescending manner in which the Wayanad seat was handed over to Priyanka, as though it was more a gift than a position earned, will have been noted by party-insiders and voters alike.

Keeping Rahul ahead in the party stakes will also require him to take on the role of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The numbers are with the Congress, but it will put him ahead in the INDI Alliance power structure even more than before. Now that the elections are done and dusted, other aspiring leaders, particularly Akhilesh Yadav, may feel a bit short-changed. Considering the fickleness of a good proportion of the voting public, the Congress might acquire dominance in UP over the Samajwadi Party. The equation between the two ‘brothers’ of UP will need to be sorted out. It will also be interesting to see how Priyanka, if voted in from Wayanad, Rahul and Akhilesh perform in parliament. Competing with the ruling party will only come later.