Priyanka Gandhi on Monday trashed reports that she wanted to challenge Narendra Modi for the Lok Sabha seat from Varanasi and was stopped by the party high command, stating it is a "personal" decision not to contest and that her family would "wholeheartedly support" her if she ever wanted to.
Priyanka came out with a rare statement to journalists following reports this morning that she was keen to be the Congress candidate from Varanasi as she was willing to place a higher principle above the real risk of defeat.
"My decision to not contest is personal. I will only change it when I feel from within that I should," she said.
She went on to reinforce her earlier remarks that she wanted to campaign only in Amethi, from where her brother is contesting, and in Rae Bareli, from where her mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi is fighting.
There have been speculation that Congress is keen on Priyanka playing a bigger role in the party.
"My brother, mother and husband (Robert Vadra) would wholeheartedly support me if I ever wanted to (contest)," 42-year-old Priyanka said.
Priyanka, mother of two, admitted that Rahul had on several occasions asked her to take the electoral plunge.
"My brother has expressed to me many times that he thinks I should contest," but she was not inclined.
"This certainly is my own personal decision and I will change it only when I feel from within me that I should," she said.
According to the reports, the decision by Congress on whom to field from Varanasi against Modi was delayed. Congress MLA was finally named as the Congress candidate from the holy city.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "I don't think anybody can prevent her and nobody will prevent her from enlarging her role as and when she chooses to play a larger political role in the Indian political spectrum".
"She has always defined her own political role and will continue to decide her own role. Priyanka Gandhi by her own calling has chosen to work in the constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli," he said.
Reacting to the reports, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, "Once the incumbent of the family fails, they won't work to make the party more structured but they will look for alternative solutions within the family. This is the problem with family-driven parties."
BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "Priyanka Gandhi should have contested from Varanasi. Her husband Robert Vadra should have contested from Vadodara and other members of the Congress' family of maladministration, who have run away from elections, should also have contested".