When the Secretary General of Congress, Priyanka Gandhi, was detained and subsequently arrested during her visit to meet with the families of the farmers who died in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in Uttar Pradesh, there were quick comparisons of a similar act by her grandmother Indira Gandhi. 44 years ago.
In 1977, Indira visited Belchi in Bihar after the massacre of 13 people, including 8 Dalits, by the landowners of the upper castes. This was the moment when Indira was in a self-imposed exile after her defeat in the post-Emergency general elections.
It is said that Indira’s visit to Belchi, which included a tractor ride and also an elephant ride due to the inaccessibility of the region in the rainy season, was one of the reasons why she gained attention when she finally regained the power in 1980.
Priyanka’s aggressive approach during her visit to Lakhimpur Kheri has drawn parallels with her grandmother Indira Gandhi. A video shows Priyanka angry in a fierce argument with the Uttar Pradesh policemen who were trying to stop her in Sitapur.
Priyanka and Rahul gandhi Meet the family of a farmer who lost his life in the violence of Lakhimpur Kheri. (ANI photo)
Shiv Sena has called Priyanka Gandhi “a fiery and fighter leader” and has said “Her eyes and her voice have the same fire as Indira Gandhi”.
Several optimistic congressmen, who are desperate for a change in the party’s political fortunes, have also been quick to cling to this ray of hope and have drawn parallels with Indira Gandhi.
But is there merit in this comparison?
Or is it simply an illusion of the leaders desperately waiting for the party’s resurgence?
Let’s analyze to find possible answers.
Not Priyanka’s first cameo
For those in Congress, and outside of it, who are optimistic about Priynaka’s aggression in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, it is worth remembering that this is not the first time that the Secretary General of Congress has grabbed the spotlight with his activism.
For a party that is perceived as relying too heavily on social media, any real action on the ground evokes immediate attention and a lot of enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, however, few follow-up actions had been carried out on previous occasions.
In July 2019, a few months after being handed over to the Uttar Pradesh post, Priyanka Gandhi was detained while on her way to meet with the families of the victims of the Sonbhadra shooting.
She was kept overnight in a boarding house in Mirzapur, where she was met by members of two families.
Priyanka visited Sonebhadra the next month, but the spark that generated the confrontation had been lost by then and everything continued as usual.
The Hathras incident again saw a flash of aggression from the Gandhi brothers when they confronted police on the Greater Noida Highway.
Then there was a line of buses for the people of Uttar Pradesh during the first wave of Covid. Priyanka once again took the initiative and posted several videos attacking the government of Yogi Adityanath.
Unfortunately, none of these flashes of aggression have helped the party gain momentum in a state that will go to the polls in a few months.
So while the Lakhimpur Kheri confrontation has galvanized congressional cadres across the country, it remains to be seen whether the party can sustain the aggression and carry it forward to enthuse party workers.
Congress of 1977 vs Congress of 2021
The workers of the Congress who love to draw the analogy of Indira every time that Priyanka takes center stage must remember that the Congress of 2021 does not come close, in organizational strength and extension, to what it was in 1977 or 1980 and the following years.
The Congress was then the only party in all of India and the opposition was a heterogeneous group of scattered parties that had come together to defeat it.
Today, in Indian politics, the BJP enjoys that position. Congress is nowhere.
Today’s Congress does not have the organizational strength or scope to capitalize on the occasional political achievements of its leaders.
Here’s a look at the current situation in Congress vis-à-vis the BJP.
On the battlefield of Uttar Pradesh, Congress is struggling to make its presence felt. The party has not only lost seats, but also its share of votes over the years.
This is true not only for the assembly elections, but also for the Lok Sabha elections in the state.
It is in this light that Prashant Kishor’s remarks seem relevant, even though congressional leaders would like to attribute his reaction as a case of sour grapes after his alleged entry into the party appears to have run into an obstacle.
The electoral strategist, who also held meetings with the high command of Congress, was quick to remind the Grand Party of the reality on the ground.
“People seeking a quick and spontaneous revival of the GOP-led opposition based on the Lakhimpur Kheri incident are setting themselves up for great disappointment,” Kishor had tweeted.
“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to the deep-seated problems and structural weakness of the Republican Party,” he said.
Clearly, Congress has lost considerable ground in the country and more so in Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi’s energetic campaign in Uttar Pradesh is certainly a step in the right direction. However, for it to be an electoral success, it will have to be a sustained campaign. Furthermore, the party needs to work hard to rebuild its organization at the grassroots level, something the BJP has done meticulously.