Priyanka Vadra, the new ambassador for the Nehru-Gandhi brand?

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With a tough electoral battle ahead, the Congress seems to have finally acknowledged that its family’s mystique needs a revitalisation. And that Priyanka is the one to do it.

In the campaign trails she has been on in the past, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has come across as remote yet accessible and relateable. | PTI

Over the last couple of days, since the news broke of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra having been appointed as the Congress general secretary in Uttar Pradesh, East, there have been miles worth of column-width devoted to her formal entry into politics. Reams have been written on whether or not she would leave an impact in this particular logistical role, as well as the larger question of the Congress’ prospects in the 2019 General Elections. Prognostications have been made on whether her impact on the polls will be significant or negligible, on whether the Gandhi siblings will work in sync or her appointment will potentially create a parallel power centre within the Congress.

The timing of her entry — it’s  a difficult time for the Congress, a depleted force trying to regain political ground from fierce rival BJP, alongside friendly but patronising regional forces — is the key aspect of the decision. She is being touted as the ace in the pack for the Congress, deployed tactically in this very tough electoral battle. In this light, her assignment of taking care of eastern Uttar Pradesh is not as significant as how successfully she will reinvest the Indian electorate with the Nehru-Gandhi brand.

Priyanka Gandhi’s space in the Gandhi family pantheon is a very special one. Not just with respect to her remarkable resemblance to her grandmother, late prime minister Indira Gandhi, but the fact that she, more than her brother, is the Nehru-Gandhi who grew up before our eyes.

She was the girl who stayed behind in Delhi with her mother Sonia Gandhi through the turbulent Narasimha Rao years, while her brother was studying abroad, just after late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. She studied in a Delhi University college, worked at a nursery school in the city, was wooed by her husband in spaces where the city’s well-heeled courted, and — more than anything — reacted with enough rage in 1998 to hand Arun Nehru, her father’s cousin who later fell out with him, a defeat in a Lok Sabha election. All this happened in those pre-Internet days, under full media glare, and her actions always came off as being less choreographed than any other person’s in her family. Her SPG call sign in Amethi, “Bhaiyyaji” , a rustic one, became her nickname during the years she campaigned for her mother and brother, she herself seeming remote yet accessible and relateable.

Priyanka, in her episodic engagement with electoral politics, always there but not quite in the forefront, could be the Nehru-Gandhi who gets India interested in that sort of mystique once again.

Whether she will succeed in post-liberalisation India, when Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and even Rajiv Gandhi have become figures of a distant past, and more than half the population was born after the World Wide Web became ubiquitous, is open to question. Congress president Rahul Gandhi appointing his sister to a formal party post is, however, a final acknowledgment that if Indians are to feel reconnected to the Nehru-Gandhis then Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be the one to do it.

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