Priyanka Gandhi: Congress’ talisman who countered PM Modi in Lok Sabha polls

Priyanka Gandhi took part in 108 public meetings and roadshows and gave more than 100 media bites during her marathon election campaign.


Published Jun 04, 2024 | 4:34 PMUpdatedJun 04, 2024 | 4:34 PM

Priyanka Gandhi's role in Lok Sabha polls

Priyanka Gandhi scoffed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s barbs by delivering her own piercing jibes. She revived painful memories of her father’s assassination to emphasise her family’s sacrifices and patriotism. Drawing immense crowds in rally after rally, she emerged as the mobiliser-in-chief for her party.

With the Congress putting up a surprisingly good show in the Lok Sabha polls, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has cemented her position as her party’s talisman.

“The Congress for a long time was in search of an effective campaigner and in the 2024 elections, Priyanka Gandhi has been a revelation in the way she has responded to Modi. Priyanka Gandhi showed Modi can be countered and played a key role pan-India,” said Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored several books, including “24 Akbar Road: A Short History Of The People Behind The Fall And Rise Of The Congress”.

The INDIA bloc may end up falling short of the magic mark to form the government but gave the country an opposition to contend with. At 3 pm, trends showed it ahead in 230 seats and the Congress leading in 98 seats, almost double of what it got last time. Priyanka Gandhi, in large part, was at the centre of the Congress’ action, giving several enduring images from this election campaign.

Who can forget her emotional outburst in Bengaluru when she lashed out at Prime Minister Modi over his “gold and mangalsutra” remarks, saying her mother Sonia Gandhi sacrificed her “mangalsutra” for the country?

Also Read: In a chart: Results of Lok Sabha Elections 2024

Priyanka Gandhi – Non-playing captain

The speculation was intense as was the spotlight on everything she said. But the Congress general secretary did not take the electoral plunge this time, opting instead to be the party’s go-to star campaigner and anchor for the elections in Rae Bareli, from where her brother contested, and Amethi, where the family’s aide Kishori Lal Sharma took on Union minister Smriti Irani.

Irani was trailing behind Sharma by more than 95,000 votes, giving the relatively unknown Sharma an easy win. Rahul Gandhi was poised to win with trends showing him ahead by 2.86 lakh votes.

Much of this is attributed to Priyanka Gandhi, who camped in the two family bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi for two weeks. If there was ever a non-playing captain in the rough and tumble that is the electoral arena it has to be the leader who was here, there and everywhere in the two constituencies.

Discussing her childhood, the pain of her father Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and her mother’s grief, she steered the Congress campaign, adroitly walking the tightrope between striking a familial chord and discussing national-level issues.

The spotlight firmly on her, Priyanka Gandhi was a strategist, orator and mass mobiliser.

As the curtains came down on Election 2024, analysts totted up the numbers. She took part in 108 public meetings and roadshows. She also gave more than 100 media bites, one TV interview and five print interviews during her marathon election campaign.

She campaigned in 16 states and one Union Territory. Priyanka Gandhi also addressed two conferences of workers in Amethi and Rae Bareli.

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Speeches that sound like conversation

At a packed party workers’ meeting in Amethi, the Congress leader narrated the story of a woman sitting in the audience who wanted to educate her daughter but her father-in-law was against it. Undeterred, she stitched sari falls to fund her daughter’s education and managed to make her a graduate.

Priyanka Gandhi told the woman that she was inspired by her and then called her over to sit on stage. There were plenty of smiles all around and a few cheers too as the audience responded to a meeting that appeared to go beyond being just politics.

It was just one of the many instances in the campaign during which Priyanka Gandhi went on a charm offensive with speeches centred around anecdotes from past elections – when she campaigned for her mother Sonia Gandhi or brother Rahul, or from her childhood when she accompanied her father Rajiv Gandhi who fought multiple elections from Amethi.

In one meeting, she said she would fast for her father’s safety after he lost power and was in the opposition.

“I started keeping ‘maun vrats’ and my father asked why I was doing it on Sundays and told me, ‘it is the only day when I get some time to speak with you’,” Priyanka Gandhi narrated.

In her well-attended corner meetings, she sometimes talked about her mother’s pain when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. “I have never seen my mother smile like she used to when my father was around.”

Most of her speeches were akin to a conversation with the crowd, establishing a connection and giving people the impression that this is someone they know, someone sharing her feelings and thoughts with them.

Accountability was a constant refrain in her campaign speeches across the country. In her campaign speeches, Priyanka Gandhi also made it a point to appeal to people to not vote on emotive issues based on religion and caste and to vote for bread-and-butter issues to improve their daily lives.

Political observers say Priyanka Gandhi took on Modi and countered his attacks on the Congress during her whirlwind campaign.

Going forward, her role in the party will be in focus as the wait continues for her electoral debut. If the Congress has to build on its pluses this election, she will have to be more hands-on in future with a bigger organisational role perhaps.

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