Political convention suggests that newbies in high positions be given a grace period to settle down before they are held accountable. That window appears to be shrinking for Congress general secretary in charge of East UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, partly because of the timing of her formal induction into the party hierarchy and the promise of being a game changer that was spun around her.
Except for showing solidarity with her embattled husband Robert Vadra—who has always been her Achilles heel—by dropping him off at the ED office in Delhi for questioning on various shady realty deals, there is nothing to write home about her strategic interventions that could change the political discourse.
A big roadshow in Lucknow on February 11 did create a buzz but nothing really happened to quickly build on that promise. On the contrary, Priyanka burnt her fingers by meeting Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad in hospital, as BSP chief Mayawati saw in it a threat to prop him up as the alternative Dalit leader in UP.
And a second gesture to leave seven UP seats uncontested, as payback for the SP-BSP not entering the fray in the Gandhi family pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli, backfired with both Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav saying they didn’t need any charity.
At present, she is undertaking her river yatra to connect with people across the Gangetic plains, addressing small gatherings en route.
That there was little spadework ahead of the yatra became clear from the sparse crowds the party managed for her. It showed Priyanka the state of her moribund party, which she has been tasked to breathe life into.
Voters in UP need to see and hear her every single day, but her public appearances have been few and far between. And her debut speech in Gujarat was fairly low-key.
People compare Priyanka to her grandmother Indira Gandhi, but she is yet to show she has the legendary former prime minister’s steel. It’s up to Priyanka to change the narrative.