Priyanka should have stayed out of Indian election campaign

Dear Editor,

With regard to your news item ‘Gandhi daughter steps up to fight for India’s Congress party’ (SN, Apr 16), Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is very likeable and charming but she has not been very successful in pulling votes for her family’s Congress party. It will receive a drubbing when voting is completed on May 12 in nine different phases. The fifth phase was completed on April 17.

Priyanka is not reading the politics on the ground right. Her cousin has done the right thing to be with the opposition BJP as it is going to win the elections, and at any rate family conflict caused Varun and his mother to join the BJP. Everywhere I travelled and polled people, it is an anti-Congress mood. Priyanka’s late campaign for her family’s party will not make much difference and religious appeal will not work in this election campaign. People want change after what they describe as 10 years of failed policies and massive corruption. The opposition BJP, the party of Priyanka’s cousin, Varun, is in the lead and barring any surprises will win the election and form the government at the centre – thanks to star campaigner Shri Narendra Modi.

It is a pro-Narendra Modi wave (prime ministerial candidate of the opposition BJP) everywhere including in places thought unimaginable. Even Muslims, who have had serious issues with Modi and the BJP, have joined the bandwagon. The father of Bollywood icon, Salman Khan, urged Muslims to give Modi a chance. Several other prominent Muslim clerics have also come out in support of Modi saying they are tired of being electoral slaves for one party. Prominent Muslims have turned their backs on Congress in spite of appeals to Bollywood Muslim stars to give Congress a lift.

Contrary to what Priyanka feels, Varun’s affiliation with the BJP helps him – they help each other as it does not hurt to have a Gandhi with a party, though in this election the ruling dynasty name has not found much favour with voters as in the past. The Congress party is expected to turn in its poorest showing even with three Gandhis campaigning for Congress and only two less prominent ones for BJP.

Varun will sail through in his seat as would his mother Maneka, both contesting seats in the huge state of Uttar Pradesh from where most Indo-Guyanese trace their roots. Priyanka’s mother, Sonia and brother Rahul, scion of the dynasty, are also contesting in UP and will also win their seats, though not by the huge margins they won in previous elections. Priyanka is not contesting but hints she will be in the line-up next election; her husband, Robert Vadra, is implicated in several corruption scandals hurting the Congress image.

Opinion polls in UP show BJP winning half the 80 seats – and this will make it the strongest contender to form a government if it fails to get a majority of 272 (out of 545) seats. Modi, though he is from Gujarat, is also contesting in UP in the holy city of Varanasi and will prevail based on a small sample of people I interacted with. Modi is going up against two very popular candidates, including the leader (Arvind Kejriwal) of the anti-corruption party, AAP, but people want to give Modi a chance. Priyanka announced she is going to campaign in Varanasi against Modi but it won’t help, and religious appeals not to support Modi will not make much of a difference as people have made up their mind on Modi. It is an error for her to go to Varanasi and although Modi has avoided poking fun at her choosing instead to go after Rahul and Sonia, he could ridicule her.

Polls a couple of weeks ago showed the BJP running short of a majority to form the government. However, a new poll out a couple of days ago has the BJP ahead around 275 seats. Congress is leading in less than 100 seats. In Delhi, polls had the BJP ahead in three seats, but everywhere I travelled almost everyone said they will vote Modi (not BJP but Modi) indicating his immense popularity as compared with Rahul, whose name is mentioned by only a few. The BJP, therefore, could win all of Delhi’s seven seats or just come up short of a sweep. Similarly, in Mumbai, polls showed Congress retaining most of the seven seats. The BJP is not in the race in Mumbai proper, instead, its alliance partner Shiva Sena is contesting against Congress. Although he had not planned to campaign in Mumbai, Modi has now decided to make a visit to the huge city. And the Sena would be the beneficiary and could trump Congress in several seats previously thought impregnable. The problem the opposition faces in Mumbai is a split in the anti-Congress vote between two cousins (Thackerays) who are fighting each other.

In other massive cities (Chennai, Kolkota, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, etc) there is also an anti-Congress feeling. It may have been better for Priyanka to stay out of the campaign rather than try to lift the sagging image of her family’s party. This would have given her a clean fresh image to rescue the dynasty in five years.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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