Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, known now in Congress parlance as PGV, is playing a critical, behind-the-scenes role for the Congress in the run-up to Elections 2014, even as party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and president Sonia Gandhi are fronting the party’s campaign.
Senior functionaries confirmed to The Hindu that Ms. Priyanka Gandhi has had a substantive say in everything, from strategy, speeches and selection of candidates and fine-tuning the party line for the media to building Brand Rahul, one that goes well beyond her role in 2009 of managing Rae Bareli and Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituencies of her mother and brother.
The first hint that she might play a larger role in these elections came on January 7 when journalists spotted her entering her brother’s 12 Tughlak Lane residence even as a meeting of top party leaders was in session inside.
Later, responding to speculation about her presence at the meeting, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said, “Priyanka Gandhi may not be in active politics, but she is an active member of the Congress ... working in Amethi and Rae Bareli. She has her own views on politics and holds deliberations with party workers. If she has held a meeting with party leaders on any issue, it is neither surprising nor new.”
On Wednesday, when The Hindu asked Mr. Dwivedi whether Ms Priyanka Gandhi was now playing a larger role in the party, he was guarded in his response: “I don't know what larger role you are visualising, but in this election, a new situation has arisen [of Rahul Gandhi leading the campaign]. Earlier, she used to organise the election campaign in Rae Bareli and Amethi. She is continuing with that. But …Rahul Gandhi is party vice-president [now] and the election campaign is being run mainly under his supervision and … he has to go to all parts of the country, he needs some more assistance. Priyanka is performing that role as a Congress member, which she has been for a long time, and more as a sister.”
But other party functionaries were less circumspect, speaking off the record. “Priyanka is playing a key role in deciding where Rahul Gandhi will campaign, advising him on speeches, inputting on party strategy, providing feedback on seats, attending meetings where only the party president and Ahmed Patel are present. You might say she is virtually leading the campaign,” said one leader.
It was she, the leader stressed, who encouraged Mr. Gandhi to hold meetings with railway porters, fishermen, rickshawwallas and so on and open up the making of the manifesto. “Both (siblings) are one,” he said, “even though she only works behind the scenes.”
Another party leader said that on occasion, she interacted with party general secretaries and was consulted on whether, for instance, to have alliances in Punjab, Bihar and West Bengal. In the first two, the Congress has partners; in the third, the party is going it alone. When there is a controversy, she often steps in to help frame a response that is then transmitted to party spokespersons, just as she has overseen his media interviews.
Ms. Priyanka Gandhi has a limited staff, who are largely in Amethi and Rae Bareli, so she has been relying on her brother’s core team.
“Priyanka is particularly involved with issues that concern Rahul Gandhi. He has very little time; now that he is campaigning, so he refers things to her,” a source said adding, “He then proceeds on the basis of feedback she gives. When Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are unable to take a decision, she analyses and gives political inputs for the decision.”