By Aditya Aamir
Smriti Irani takes on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. A repeat of 2014. And with that, it’s definite that this time around, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will end her Amethi campaign with more Indira Gandhi saris the worse for wear. One of the stories of this general election is that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is stuck with the sari and the saris she’s seen sporting are those which Indira bought! It also means, no more jeans and salwar-kameez for Priyanka, at least not as long as she remains active politician.
That said, Indira’s legacy is not an easy wraparound for anybody, not even for Indira’s granddaughter. But Indira’s saris still have starch in them as evidenced these last few weeks. Priyanka has been talking tough ever since she took to road and river in eastern Uttar Pradesh, forcing Mayawati and Akhliesh Yadav to respond. Is Mayawati’s decision not to contest the Lok Sabha elections prompted by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s challenge? That’s an open but not shut question.
Then, again, it’s bad news for Rahul Gandhi. For, the more Priyanka Gandhi Vadra goes around poaching Dalit and Muslim votes of the SP-BSP gathbandhan, the more difficult it becomes for Behenji and Akhilesh Yadav to keep up the sham of supporting Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in Amethi and Rae Bareilly, the two seats the SP-BSP left to the Congress after divvying up Uttar Pradesh between themselves and Ajit Singh’s RLD.
Only the naïve and foolish will believe Mayawati will ‘transfer’ her Dalit votes to post a rival to her post-election ambition to become Prime Minister. Even a kid gets around to know prevention is better than cure. And Mayawati is no novice. Yadavs and the Dalit in Amethi might not all vote Congress, which means more hard work for Priyanka.
Besides, the Modi Government has been preparing for just such a day. Ensuring that the Dalit in Rahul’s constituency got Ujwala and Awaas; Swabhagya and Jan Dhan. Like it or not, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be bottled up in Amehi more than she would like to in her new expanded role. Ensuring Congress wins in Amethi and Rae Bareilly takes precedence over unseating Modi from Varanasi.
Also, Smriti Irani will see to it that Priyanka stays tied to Amethi as much as possible. Smriti is not Hema Malini, who cautioned party men not to make cracks about Priyanka’s ‘khoobsurti’. Unlike Hema, whose name also figures in the BJP’s first UP list, Irani made her mark on the small screen, where dialogues are vitriol and plots petty. Smriti is a showboat with a kind of ready wit she thinks is the rage. The other day she told a channel, she’s different from Priyanka because she doesn’t have a brother in primary school and a husband who covets other people’s land.
Put straight, Irani prefers below the belt. The question is, does Priyanka have in her to go low when Irani goes low, lower, lowest? That said, Mayawati deciding not to contest GE 2019 means she’s very serious about becoming Prime Minister. It could also be nervousness. The BSP’s 2014 tally of ‘Zero’ is a noose that must still hang in Maya’s memory. Getting as many of the SP-BSP-RLD alliance candidates through to victory takes primacy for Maya. A minimum of 60 UP seats will be what the ‘Bua’ and ‘Bhatija’ will be aiming for.
And Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is the plumaged roadrunner Mayawati doesn’t like to see flit around in plain sight. Uttar Pradesh is increasingly becoming a ladies playground these elections. And the ladies are all at loggerheads. Two of them should be rightly on the same side if they had taken seriously the formula worked out by ‘Didi’ Mamata Banerjee. But then, Didi has her own battles to fight and her opponents are not women, not at this stage.