Less than two months after the Congress party was routed in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka Vadra has planned a massive undercover move to replace her brother. While Rahul Gandhi has been sulking, top sources within the Congress party say that Priyanka has been working overtime with her close ring of leaders to prop herself to the post of Congress president.
According to these sources, Priyanka is very angry that Rahul went on record to say that no Gandhi should necessarily succeed him. But because she can't publicly contradict Rahul as of now, she has unleashed a campaign led by her right-hand man and loyalist Rajeev Shukla to take over as Congress president.
Rajeev Shukla who is from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh has, in turn, asked Sriprakash Jaiswal to start making noises about making Priyanka party president, and he has duly obliged, saying that along with 'many people', he too believes that Priyanka Vadra should become the Congress chief as she belongs to the Gandhi family and has the quality to lead the party.
Another leader who has been roped in by Rajeev Shukla and demanded Priyanka takes over is Bhakta Charan Das, who said that the there was a demand by party leaders for Priyanka to succeed Rahul as she is a leader who is acceptable to everyone. Note the similarities between Jaiswal and Bhakta's statements.
The other person who has been advising Vadra behind the scenes is Prashant Kishor. Kishor, sources said, can't come out into the open because his party JDU is in an official alliance with the BJP, but the sources confirmed that he is also a critical part of the strategy. As part of the strategy, Priyanka Vadra whose enthusiasm to become Congress president, according to the source, 'is at an all-time high', has also claimed rather bizarrely that Nelson Mandela wanted her to join politics. This is a rather foolish statement given that Nelson Mandela died in December 2013. And the picture that Priyanka showed as proof that Nelson Mandela wanted her to become president is at least 18 old.
Interestingly, Priyanka has also thrown a fuss about Congress leaders being forced to quit for their failure in the election and has flatly refused to do the same. Her campaign in Eastern UP was the most unmitigated loss in the election where Congress was defeated in all but one of the seats. But while all other Congress leaders have quit she has refused to do so, all the while blaming other senior and not-so-senior leaders of the party for the Congress loss. This proves that Priyanka sees the Congress loss as an opportunity to project her own political ambitions. The reason Priyanka Vadra is now getting a tad desperate is because of strong moves within the Congress to prop a more acceptable mass leader as party president replacing Rahul.
Multiple sources in the Congress party speaking to Republic on condition of anonymity said that Priyanka saw the 2019 election as the first of her moves to oust Rahul, but never expected her own performance to come under the scanner in the way that it did. Her style of campaigning was criticised, she proved totally ineffective versus Smriti Irani in Amethi and across Eastern UP where she was put in charge was unable to gather crowds or public support. Her speeches were seen to be superficial. And her admonishing style while speaking to voters cost her party dearly.
Worried that she would be clubbed with Rahul and held responsible for the drubbing, Priyanka carefully crafted a plot to deflect attention from herself and hence, both cried at a critical CWC meeting as well as berated all leaders of the party except for those from the Gandhi family. During this period she also held a secret meeting with Rajeev Shukla who advised her to wait for a month before starting her own campaign. What Priyanka Vadra did not anticipate was the outcry from Congress workers for a non-Gandhi younger face to emerge as party president, led by possibilities such as Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and Madhya Pradesh's Jyotiraditya Scindia. These two 40+ leaders are seen as younger and sharper alternatives to Rahul Gandhi with mass appeal and over a decade-and-a-half in active politics each. It is at this stage that the Priyanka Vadra lobby decided to step up its campaign. Priyanka panicked when Congress CM Captain Amarinder Singh, in a clear indication that he would support Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia said on July 6 that there needs to be a younger leader.
Interestingly, within a week of this, the 'Unleash Priyanka' plan was launched. The idea behind her campaign to be party president is that the very thought of a Gandhi replacing a Gandhi will keep Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia at bay, as in keeping with the tradition within the Congress, they'll fall in line and support Priyanka as well. So the stage is now set for a story that no Congress beat reporter is willing to report yet: A contest between Priyanka Vadra on one side and a Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia on the other. Congress beat reporters are known to be remarkably faithful to the Gandhi family. This perhaps explains why none of them are reporting the story that is being spoken of openly in Congress circles. The reason is that most Congress beat reporters are now hoping for the kindness of Priyanka Vadra and therefore, want to underplay the challenge that is emerging within and the dissatisfaction of Congress workers with the unrelenting family saga within the embattled party.
Only this time, with her declaration that Nelson Mandela wanted her to join politics, Priyanka Vadra has spilled the beans on her ambitions. This is now going to be the most keenly watched political story in the next few weeks and Republic World will be keeping you ahead. For every single update on the battle within the Congress, stay tuned to RepublicWorld.com