Priyanka should play greater role in Cong: Gogoi

Priyanka in Rae Bareli. PTI Priyanka in Rae Bareli. PTI

As Priyanka Vadra takes on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from her family pocket borough of Rae Bareli, a top Congress leader and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Thursday said that she should play a “greater role in party affairs” along with her brother and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

In a telephonic interview to The Indian Express, the three-term CM said he sees “reflection of Indira Gandhi” in Priyanka. A few years back, he had even exhorted Congress president Sonia Gandhi to bring both her children into politics and she “had not said no”.

“Priyanka has a mass appeal. Even Rahul has. They have the sincerity and commitment to fight for justice and against communalism. Since Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, although I never worked with him, I have known the family. I see reflection of Indira Gandhi in Priyanka,” said Tarun Gogoi, 79, who holds the best hope for the Congress in terms of the success rate in any state ruled by the party in the Lok Sabha elections.

“Although Priyanka has been playing some role, she should play a bigger role in the party. They should both together play a greater role,” he said referring to Rahul and Priyanka.

“I had suggested it a few years back to Sonia Gandhi and she had not said ‘no’. I want her (Priyanka) to play a greater role. This is a new generation, a young generation and there is a new thinking. Every time in the Congress, the young generation has strengthened the party with new initiatives and new outlook,” he said The Congress chief minister’s remarks come at a time when Priyanka has virtually launched herself as a Congress campaigner targeting Modi over “snoopgate” and countering the opposition’s attack on her husband Robert Vadra. Although confined to Amethi and Rae Bareli, constituencies of her brother and mother respectively, she has used the media to reach out to the larger electorate, forcing the BJP to counter her remarks.

In 2009 too she had remained confined to these two constituencies but had made national headlines for over a week targeting the BJP. In the run-up to the 2012 UP assembly elections, she had expressed a desire to address party workers across the state but had been advised to stay put in the family pocket borough.

Although the party recently claimed that there is “no vacancy” for Priyanka for now, it has been agog with speculation about her role after the elections.Coming as it does from a leader who had won the first Lok Sabha election in 1971 and held several important posts in the Congress and the government at the Centre until his election as CM in 2001, Gogoi’s remarks are likely to reignite the debate about Priyanka’s future role, especially when the party seems to be staring at defeat after 10 years in power.

The Assam CM was, however, cautious in his remarks, making it clear that he wished Rahul and Priyanka work together in the party. “They should both play a much greater role than what they have been playing today. Of course, I am not an all-India level leader. I am a state leader but I think she will play a bigger role. They should and they will play a greater role. Even though Rahul is party vice-president today, he is not interfering in many matters, not even in candidate selection. I do feel that he is not playing a bigger role because of seniors and because of the role assigned to him. It should change,” Gogoi said.

He also debunked any suggestion of a “Modi wave” in the election.

“Where is the wave? It’s an artificial wave. Result on May 16 will speak. I don’t think there is any wave. It is a media hype. I have been in politics since 1971, the amount of money they are spending on the publicity, I have never seen in my whole life. But I don’t think it will impact the voters, they are much more conscious,” he said.

He attacked Modi saying, “The way he is behaving, it’s a one-man show. They say ‘vote for Modi, not for the party’. Can a country like India accept it? He is not a superman, not a super god. His performance in Gujarat is much below (that of his counterparts in) many other states. Gujarat is not on top in health or education or in human development index or in sanitation for women. There are more suicides (by farmers) in Gujarat. The man who could not bring his state to number one position, how do you expect him to change the whole of India? It’s an artificial wave but somehow we have not been able to expose him.”