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Gandhi Dilemma

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has expressed confusion about which Lok Sabha seat to retain – Raebareli or Wayanad. Quite obviously, there was no plan about the future when these seats were contested. It was just a survival gambit that has become a complication on proving successful. Wayanad was okay as long as it was a constituency to retreat to after losing support in the northern states. However, now it is too ‘marginal’ to retain, as national politics requires a stronghold in the Hindi Heartland.

The possible compensation that may be handed the people of Wayanad is Priyanka Vadra as candidate. Once again, it will be a gamble that may play both ways. The people of Wayanad may not feel so blessed with being second-best. Or they may be delighted at another Gandhi using their constituency as a launch pad. Would it not be better if Rahul Gandhi retains Wayanad, thereby proving his loyalty, and Priyanka Vadra contests the sure-shot Raebareli pocket-borough? All the more so because state assembly elections are due in Kerala and Rahul’s presence could boost his party’s prospects there.

Why is this obvious logic not occurring to the Congress leadership? Could it be because there are separate Rahul and Priyanka factions in play? If Priyanka becomes a leading opposition figure in UP and other parts of north India, she could well overshadow her brother. In fact, there have been voices raised from within and without the party demanding she be made Congress President. Although she may not be very experienced in party affairs, she would for a considerable period tighten her family’s stranglehold on the party.

Also, if Rahul Gandhi agrees to become Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, it would be his opportunity to assert control. It could lead to heightened factionalism, but matters would remain within the family fold. There are shortcomings, of course, as Priyanka’s rise could lead to greater scrutiny of her husband’s financial dealings. On the other hand, the chances of her brother delivering as LoP are not so bright.

It must also not be forgotten that the electoral mandate has not been so much for the Congress as the caste-minority combine with the Samajwadi Party in UP, and the MVA in Maharashtra. It may prove risky to make ambitious moves regarding self-promotion for the Gandhi siblings without also considering such external factors. No wonder it is taking time to arrive at a decision.