Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s presence at a meeting of senior leaders was a signal that she would take a more active role in the election strategy of the Congress for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with some partymen privately acknowledging Wednesday that “it cannot be without design or script”.
A day after Priyanka, daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, attended the meeting Tuesday at her brother and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s residence, 12 Tughlak Lane, the buzz continued in party circles about her assuming a bigger role for general elections.
The party, officially, continued to play down the speculation and a leader said she would take her own decision.
Leaders admitted that many wanted her to assume a bigger role in the campaign as it would improve the party’s prospects at a time when the Congress is passing through difficulties reflected in the outcome of the assembly elections held November-December last year. However, they said that decision had to be taken by her alone.
Priyanka has been looking after the constituencies of Rahul (Amethi) and Sonia (Rae Bareli) and is considered charismatic by the party rank and file. A mother of two, she is younger to her brother and will turn 42 Jan 12.
A senior party functionary, who did not want to be identified, said Priyanka’s participation in the meeting “cannot be without a design and script”.
The meeting came days ahead of an All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting Jan 17 amid speculation Rahul could be officially named as the prime ministerial candidate.
Another leader said it was not the first such meeting in which Priyanka was present and she was “well-informed” of issues concerning the party.
A party leader from Uttar Pradesh told IANS Priyanka is informed of matters concerning the party in the state and gives her suggestions.
Ashok Bhan, an AICC member from Jammu and Kashmir, said: “Her greater involvement in the affairs of the party will invigorate the cadres strongly in the 2014 elections. She is a replica of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.”
Another party leader said Priyanka had always chosen “her own role” and, for the present, wanted to restrict her role and guidance to Amethi and Rae Bareli.
“This is where it stands as on date. We should leave it at that. She should be permitted to decide her role,” he said.
“She was at her brother’s residence and briefly attended the meeting, held to chalk out tour programmes of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, out of courtesy,” party leader Randeep Surjewala said.
Party sources said there was a view that Priyanka could assist Rahul in his role as possible prime ministerial candidate of the party in a way it did not overshadow him.
Aditya Mukherjee, professor of Contemporary Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the Congress would benefit from Priyanka playing a more active role in the party.
“She has an instinctive political sense. It will be good for the Congress to bring her to the forefront. She should play a more active role,” he said.
He said Priyanka was playing “a slightly more active role” but “it has to be much more” for a meaningful impact to the Congress fortunes.
Mukherjee also said the party should take a clear decision on projecting Rahul as its prime ministerial candidate.
Asked about apprehensions that Priyanka’s emergence could eclipse Rahul, he said the roles can also turn out to be complimentary.
A.S. Narang, a professor of political science at the Indira Gandhi National Open University, said Priyanka might assume a more active role in the Congress as the party would try to put its best foot forward in an election year.
He said if she assumes a bigger role, it would help the party “slightly”.
“Only a few months remain for the Lok Sabha polls but the Congress has not launched its campaign. Also, there are other factors such as emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party,” he said.
He said the party needs to get on with a clear roadmap for campaign.