BJP Lok Sabha MP Varun Gandhi may have denied speculation about joining the Congress but the rumours are not dying down. While top Congress leaders are silent, calling it an issue related to the “family”, many lower-rung functionaries in the party continue to speculate that Varun could join them. And party president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks in on Friday only added to the confusion and speculation. Asked about the rumours during an interaction in Bhubaneshwar, Rahul did not explicitly rule out the possibility of Varun’s entry into the Congress and merely said he is unaware of the speculation.
Battling or posturing?
By sending Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi may have declared that the Congress is battle-ready against the BJP and the SP-BSP combine in the electorally crucial state. But another school of thought in the party believes an understanding with SP and BSP is still possible. These leaders recall how Rahul had, in 2016, aggressively undertaken a much-publicised kisan yatra in UP and named Sheila Dikshit as the party’s CM candidate before the Assembly polls the following year. Months later, the Congress entered into a tie-up with the SP and Dikshit quietly withdrew. Some Congress leaders believe that move had spooked the SP then, prompting it to enter into an alliance. They feel a repeat of that cannot be ruled out now. So was Priyanka’s entry an attempt to pressure SP and BSP? Only time will tell.
Within hours of BJP leader and Bihar minister Vinod Narayan Jha’s statement on Friday that Priyanka Gandhi is just a pretty face with no political talent going public, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma was quick to take to social media and “condemn such irresponsible statement about women, particularly made by persons holding responsible posts”. This comes days after Sharma was accused by some quarters of being politically motivated when she condemned Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his remarks on PM Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and followed it up with an official notice demanding an explanation for his “misogynistic” remarks. Sharma had even had an online spat with Congress’s communication department convenor Priyanka Chaturvedi, who asked her to send notices to Modi as well for his previous “Surpanaka and Congress ki vidhwa” remarks, and not just act as a “political appointee”.