Priyanka Gandhi might have just dropped a hint about her contesting the Lok Sabha polls when she asked party workers if she should contest from Varanasi. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi created a suspense around it, suspense indeed was what further rose to stratospheric levels when Priyanka Gandhi recently expressed her willingness to contest from Varanasi if her party wanted her to.
The permutation and combination of situations
What if she doesn’t?
The opposition has yet to figure who it intends to field against PM Modi. Now that the idea of Priyanka Gandhi contesting is all hyped up, her decision to not contest would make Modi appear even stronger and invincible. This would further lend credence to the TINA narrative and project a reluctant image of the opposition during a crucial battle.
What if she does?
Even though the odds are stacked against her, both Priyanka Gandhi and the opposition could gain from her Varanasi contest. First of all, her decision to contest would make this election all about herself and turn Varanasi into a contest which it certainly is not at the moment. The opposition would no longer appear abstracted, and TINA factor would cease to exist. Gandhi will also most likely receive an unprecedented media coverage which could help her party imbibe its message deeper into people’s minds at a time when BJP dominates the mass communication sphere. By taking on PM Modi on his turf, Priyanka Gandhi would come across as a leader willing to put up a fight. Her willingness to contest has already turned the optics and the narrative in her favor. PM Modi’s decision to contest from a second seat under these circumstances could benefit Priyanka Gandhi further as it is to her that the credit for raising the contest bar high would go. All in all, her decision to contest would give an impression that the opposition is resurgent enough to take on BJP on its home turf.
The flip side
During the assembly elections in 2009, Gandhi had promised to pull 10/10 constituencies from her party borough. The party, however, had managed to win just two. So, she is still to prove her political acumen and to channelize her charisma and ripostes into electoral gains. If she decides to go for this high-decibel contest, the results will most likely not be in her favor. It remains to be seen if she would be willing to gamble and make an unsuccessful contest her political marker.
A high-profile PGV v/s NAMO would thus be a thriller to watch this election season.