Chennai: 18 March 2008. Vellore prison had a surprise visitor. It was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who came all the way from Delhi to meet Nalini Sriharan, one of the convicts in the assassination of her father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The visit caused a huge sensation then. Almost 11 years after the above incident, Priyanka has once again created waves in Tamilnadu, at least among the leaders and members of the State’s Congress unit, after she was appointed the party’s general secretary by her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
They hope Priyanka can recreate the magic of her grandmother – late prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was admired by the women of Tamilnadu. “Indira Gandhi was the first to be called Amma, and then Annai, by the politicians and people here. Priyanka resembles her grandmother a lot and we learn from seniors that she is as strong and simple as Indira. We are sure her visit(s) to Tamilnadu ahead of Lok Sabha elections will woo the voters towards Congress again,” says Ashok Kumar, a Congress office-bearer in Vellore district.
Says S Thirunavukkarasar, the president of Tamilnadu Congress Committee, “The entry of Priyanka will surely add strength to the party. She hails from a traditional political family, and, hence, she needs not be taught politics. Her arrival will help achieve our goal of storming back to power under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.”
On the other hand, the Tamilnadu unit of Congress’ archrival, the BJP, as expected, seeks to downplay the entry of Priyanka. “Priyanka’s plunge into politics would in no way impact the prospects of the BJP in the polls” says Tamilisai Soundararajan, the State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Congress insiders say though Priyanka has officially hogged the limelight only now, she has always been a confidante and advisor for Sonia and Rahul when it came to crucial decisions. The grapevine has it that all big decisions in the Congress did have her sign-off. And the list includes Congress’ partnership with Akhilesh Yadav for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, selection of chief ministers for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and bringing Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manpreet Badal into the Punjab Congress. Also, Priyanka oversaw the all-crucial party meeting in which Rahul was named Congress president.
Now, the task before her is to ‘oversee’ the making of Rahul as Prime Minister. Will she be able to do it? We will have to wait for a few more months to know the answer.