By Amika Limbu
PRIYANKA Gandhi-Vadra’s entry into politics has made news not only in every home in India, but it seems she has become hot topic of discussions among journalists, politicians, activists, educationists and even among the hoi polloi around the world. Not just in India, but across the world, several newspapers carried the story of Priyanka’s entry into politics on their front pages. Television channels repeatedly played the news in their hourly news. Facebook went into an overdrive while Twitter world was not to be left behind.
For someone who has not even contested a college election, the kind of reception Ms Priyanka Gandhi has received seems to be unprecedented. Her mother too was widely discussed when she made it to politics, but Priyanka’s entry seems to have surpassed that record. The hashtag #PriyankaGandhi is said to be the most top trending topic on Twitter in India — and in many countries where Indians live.
Various Indian newspapers like The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Telegraph along with all regional papers played up the story on their front pages. The regional papers went to town, taking Priyanka’s picture as big as possible. Saamna, the mouthpiece of Shiv Sena, had a headline which will make BJP fume. Now Priyanka will take Modi head-on.
The Telegraph stood out for its headline,”How’s the Josh, Bro.” The Times of India had as many stories as possible on its front page as well as a full page was devoted how Priyanka effect is going to play out. The Indian Express is only paper that carried a story give insight into Eastern Uttar Pradesh where Priyanka will be in charge. The Times of India and the Indian Express both have carried a picture of Rahul and Priyanka in their childhood with their grandmother Indira Gandhi.
Even Pakistani newspapers carried Priyanka’s story on front pages. Same thing has happened in Gulf countries too. Most of the newspapers called her Priyanka in the headline, giving a sort personal touch.
The Indian Express put a poser to Priyanka in its editorial: What has Rahul done so far ? The paper said the Congress has finally taken a step forward towards openeness.
The Washington Post said Priyanka’s entry into politics has shaken up the race to lead the world’s largest democracy ahead of elections set for later in the spring.
The paper said the Congress Party is attempting to deny Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term, a task that seemed impossible until several months ago. But then it defeated Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in three state elections in December, suggesting the fight to govern India may be closer than expected, the paper said.
The Washington Post said Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics has been the subject of fevered speculation for years. Until now, her political forays had been largely limited to appearing at campaign rallies in constituencies held by her family members.
The Post described Priyanka as sharp and charismatic orator, bearing a distinct resemblance to her paternal grandmother, Indira Gandhi — India’s only female prime minister, who governed the country from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1984. (The family is not related to Mahatma Gandhi, the revered leader of India’s struggle for independence.)
The paper quoted Rasheed Kidwai, a political commentator and the author of a biography of Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka’s Italian-born mother, saying Priyanka Gandhi’s move to join the political fray is a “game-changer.” “The Congress thinks that the upcoming national election is make-or-break. Priyanka is a natural politician and knows what people want.”
The Guardian published from London quoted author and journalist Sagarika Ghose, a biographer of Indira Gandhi who has interviewed Priyanka several times, saying Priyanka has the potential to command voters’ attention in Uttar Pradesh and had particular appeal among women.
“A woman Gandhi is a very powerful symbol and Indira Gandhi’s mystique lives on,” she said. “It’s a ballsy move. Let’s face it: she’s striking and photogenic and this is the politics of spectacle.”
The Guardian said Priyanka is regarded as a forceful and engaging presence on the campaign trail. She caused a minor stir in 2008 when she attended a speech by her brother in parliament wearing jeans and a blouse, eschewing the traditional sari that most women in the chamber wear.
The Guardian said through the day, all but one of the top trends on Twitter in India were about Ms Gandhi’s plunge into formal politics with thousands of people tweeting about her.
The Guardian said the ruling BJP is likely to use the appointment to sharpen its attack on Congress as a party of nepotism. Modi told party workers after the announcement that for Congress, a family was the party, unlike the BJP, for which the party was family.
The Express Tribune said some party loyalists see Priyanka as more affable and charismatic than her older brother, and had long lobbied for her to play a bigger role.
Rahul’s leadership credentials were hammered in the wake of 2014, when Congress was thumped in the polls by Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, the paper said.
Modi won a record mandate and stormed to victory with the Hindu nationalist BJP, gaining ground with decisive wins in key states including Uttar Pradesh, as Gandhi’s stewardship took a battering. But the Congress leader has bounced back, with the party taking back three heartland states from the BJP in December, delivering momentum as the national election looms. Priyanka’s appointment comes as Congress was left out of an opposition alliance against Modi between two regional parties in Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks, the paper said.
While BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra has termed her entry into politics as an admission that Rahul Gandhi had “failed” in his leadership, Congress leaders and own family seems to be delighted.
Congratulating her, her husband Robert Vadra praised her. “Congratulations P. Always by your side in every phase of your life. Give it your best,” he posted on Facebook.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “Very happy that my sister Priyanka will assist me in UP in the Lok Sabha polls; she is very capable.”
“Congress party is fighting a battle of ideologies. And the Congress party is not going to play on the backfoot anywhere, it will play on the front foot. It is fighting for its ideology. Be it Priyanka or Jyotiraditya, they are powerful leaders of the Congress and through these two young leaders we want to alter the politics of Uttar Pradesh,” Rahul told reporters in Amethi.
One of the first leaders to tweet, JD (U) vice president Prashant Kishor described the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as Congress’ general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East as “one of the most awaited entries in Indian politics“.
Mr. Kishor had worked with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh as a poll strategist before joining the Janata Dal (United). “One of the most awaited entries in Indian politics is finally here! While people may debate the timing, exact role and position, to me, the real news is that she finally decided to take the plunge! Congratulations and best wishes to Priyanka Gandhi,” he said in a tweet.
“We welcome Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s appointment as Congress general secretary, as it would further boost the morale of the party ahead of Lok Sabha polls,” senior Congress leader and MP Pradip Bhattacharya said.
“The Congress president has given a pleasant surprise…The Congress rank and file has been infused with new energy,” said former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
“This is an opportunity for the Congress to strike back in the most crucial state of the country where the organisation had all through been wanting her to plunge into active politics,” Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Rajiv Bakshi said.
Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath said the duo’s appointments will give a big boost to the party’s prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. “This (Priyanka’s appointment) was long overdue and was in offing for about six months. This will be a big boost for the party in a state as important as Uttar Pradesh,” Mr. Nath told PTI in an interview.
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan said,“Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a good administrator and experienced leader,” the former Maharashtra chief minister said while referring to her role in handling parliamentary constituencies of Raebarelli and Amethi over the last few years.