Hours after the Congress’s announcement, while interacting with party workers from Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Family is party for some parties, but for the BJP, party is the family”.
While BJP leaders, in their official reactions, targeted “dynastic politics” in the Congress, some of them privately admitted that her entry would “alter the optics in favour of the Congress at the national level”.
Responding to a question on how the BJP could be projected as a party with a difference during his video conference with booth workers in Baramati, Modi said: “Democracy is in our culture, this is the reason why people feel a natural connect with the BJP. In our party, no decision is taken on the basis of what one individual or a family wants. Our decisions are on the basis of what party workers want.”
“In this country, many parties are in the Congress gotra. They were formed in and influenced by the Congress culture. When we talk about Congress-mukt Bharat, it means we want to end the Congress culture,” he said.
Union Minister J P Nadda, who is in charge of the party’s affairs in Uttar Pradesh, said: “Priyanka Gandhi officially becomes general secretary of Congress, but everyone knows how this household company works. It is also the first official declaration from the Congress that Rahulji has failed, he should say what is his view of parivarwadi soch.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said such appointments were “nothing unusual” in a party which is a “family concern”, but Priyanka’s “persona merited a more wider role”.
“We congratulate Priyanka Gandhi on her appointment and for the new assignment. However, it is also an admission that in the Gandhi family, the dependence on Rahul is over. The rise of Priyanka in the party is actually the fall of Rahul,” said Uttar Pradesh Minister Sidharth Nath Singh. He said Priyanka would also be tried and rejected by the people.
While BJP leaders said Priyanka’s entry could favour the Congress at the national level, they said any advantage for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh would eventually help the BJP at the state level, as it would split the anti-BJP vote in a three-cornered contest — the SP and BSP have already announced their alliance.
While Uttar Pradesh BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey said Priyanka was “not even one per cent challenge” to the BJP, party leaders admitted she could make the Congress a significant force among the youth and women at the national level. “She can turn the optics in favour of the Congress. She will definitely steal a chunk of media space, at the cost of Prime Minister Modi,” a senior party leader told The Indian Express.
“She could attract the youth. Now the Congress may put more pressure in Parliament and make some visible moves for the women’s Bill,” said another BJP leader, adding that she could consolidate the Congress support among the upper castes in Uttar Pradesh, especially the Brahmins who form 11 per cent of the state’s population and constitute a significant vote base for the BJP.
However, BJP general secretary Arun Singh dismissed that possibility. “The Congress no longer enjoys the support of the upper castes in the state. The new generation has been voting for BJP in state and parliamentary elections for a few years now,” he said.
“Let her take over as in-charge of the entire Uttar Pradesh, we will welcome it,” said Vinod Kumar Sonkar, BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh.
At least four BJP leaders told The Indian Express that any advantage for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh was good news for the BJP. A senior office-bearer of the party, who admitted that the move had “disturbed the party initially”, explained how Priyanka’s entry would be beneficial for the BJP in the state. “It will split the minority votes that would have otherwise gone to the SP-BSP. One major concern of the BJP, post-announcement of their electoral alliance, has been consolidation of the Muslim votes,” he said. “The votes in favour of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh will not go anywhere, but those against it will get divided,” he said.