Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will complement Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts in winning over young voters and the brother-sister combine will be a game changer for the party in the Lok Sabha polls as the country needs a young team, technocrat-turned-politician Sam Pitroda said Sunday. He said the Rahul-Priyanka duo will make a “great team” along with many other young leaders active in the party, including Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora, as people who can take the country forward, rather than keeping it hung up on history and religion.
Pitroda, the Indian Overseas Congress chief and a long-time friend of the Gandhi family, also said Rahul Gandhi has learnt a lot from the 2014 elections and is much more “mature, stronger, wiser”, and ready to take on the job of Prime Minister. In an interview with PTI from Chicago, he said India needs a young person with a new inclusive vision of the future, focus on employment, and new opportunities for all, to lead.
“India today needs somebody who believes in teamwork, collaboration and cooperation as opposed to a centralised power centre. India today really needs someone who believes in truth rather than lies, who believes in trust and not mistrust, who believes in inclusion and not exclusion. Rahul is at the right age to lead India,” Pitroda said.
Asked about Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into active politics as AICC general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, he said she will be a “great asset and a good politician”. “She will complement her brother’s efforts. She will join him in getting young people excited, especially women. They are both young, they represent a large young team in the party, they are modern, they are tech-savvy with a healthy respect for history and new vision for the future.
“I am confident that they will attract more young people in the mainstream and that is what a young India needs,” Pitroda said. Pitroda, who divides his time between the US and India, is seen as a key adviser of the Gandhis. Asked if the Rahul-Priyanka team will be a game changer for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, expected in April-May, he said: “I think it will be. People will see the benefit of a younger team with a modern outlook. The country needs to look forward rather than backwards, and not get hung up on history and religion.”
“But it is not just the Rahul-Priyanka combine. The party has many other young people like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, to name just a few,” he said. Pitroda said he is hopeful that Priyanka Gandhi’s coming into active politics will have a big impact on the polls.
Priyanka Gandhi (47) and Scindia (48) took charge as AICC general secretary UP east and UP west respectively last week. Pilot, 41, was made deputy CM of Rajasthan in December 2018 after the Congress wrested power from BJP. He as well as Deora (42) and Scindia had served as Union ministers in the last UPA government at the Centre.
Rahul Gandhi (48) took charge as Congress chief in December 2017. However, the party has had several presidents who took charge at a younger age, including his father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi, and maternal great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, as also Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. On the BJP’s charge that the Congress was promoting dynastic politics, Pitroda said dynasty is in every business, but ultimately the performance matters. If you don’t perform dynasty cannot help, he said.
Rahul Gandhi’s popularity has increased exponentially after becoming Congress president because once he took over, he has had a free hand, Pitroda said. “He could do things that he wanted to do. Earlier, he was constrained in some ways. After becoming Congress president, he had to leave his mark, bring in a young team, respect the old guards, and realise that going forward, he would need new thinking and new blood, and that is what he is trying to do,” said Pitroda, who headed the Knowledge Commission during the tenure of Manmohan Singh.
He said Gandhi has the qualities to make a good PM because his heart is in the right place and he is keen on working for India and its people. “He (Gandhi) is not driven by personal and vested interests. He is driven by the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. He is driven by opportunities for the young. He is driven by the welfare of farmers. He is driven by the idea of inclusion…he believes in the idea of India that our founding fathers had,” Pitroda said.
Asked whether Rahul Gandhi’s NRI events in foreign countries were similar to the ones PM Narendra Modi has had, he said it was not so and the idea behind the trips was not just to have big events with NRIs, but to meet local political and business leaders, interact with students, with members of the Indian Overseas Congress, and then have a big event to be able to meet them en masse. “He (Gandhi) interacts with students wherever he goes. So it’s a different format.”
Pitroda, who has worked closely with both Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, said they cannot be compared as there is big difference between the India 35 years back and the India now, but added they were open to new ideas. On the EVM issue, he said no one has used electronic voting technology the way India has. “It deserves a lot more attention than we are willing to give. You can’t just brush it aside.”
Pitroda led the telecom revolution under Rajiv Gandhi when he set up the C-DOT. He worked on the Knowledge Commission and also founded National Innovation Council during the UPA rule.