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The Rediff Special / George Iype

April 27, 2004

The first two phases of the Lok Sabha election are over and the Congress is buoyed by exit polls that show the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance slipping.

But Congress leaders say the party had a good chance of beating the NDA if it had played its cards well during the campaign.

They still don't know why party president Sonia Gandhi has refused to deploy her children, Priyanka Vadra and Rahul, outside Uttar Pradesh. Late Tuesday evening Congress General Secretary Ambika Soni announced after a strategy meeting of top leaders that Rahul and Priyanka would extensively campaign in the next two phases.

Ever since the announcement of the election dates, most Congress candidates have been trying to get the two to campaign in their constituencies.

"Yes, we have been getting lots of requests from across the country. All our candidates are saying, 'Give us Priyanka and Rahul,'" says Congress media secretary Tom Vadakkan.

"But the decision to deploy them rests with the Congress high command," he adds.

Many initially thought Priyanka would contest, but that did not happen. Instead, Rahul was fielded from Amethi, while Sonia shifted to neighbouring Rae Bareli.

Priyanka confined herself to Rae Bareli and Amethi, her family's pocket boroughs. Rahul also mostly campaigned in these two seats.

"We had a great chance to simply beat the BJP if Priyanka and Rahul were in the field for the first and second phases of poll. There are no explanations as to why they are not campaigning outside Uttar Pradesh," says a Congress leader.

Last week Rahul told "Right now I am focussed only on Amethi. But if the party leadership asks me to campaign elsewhere in the country, I will do that."

Party leaders close to Sonia say there are four reasons why the two have not ventured out.

The party president's reluctance

"Sonia fears she will become irrelevant if the children are deployed all of a sudden," claims a Congress leader.

She realises she has not led the party well. Under her, the party was unable to win the 1999 Lok Sabha election and several assembly polls later.

"She wants to prove that she can singularly take the Congress to victory this time. That is why Rahul and Priyanka have been unleashed only in piecemeal fashion," this leader claims.

The campaign against the Gandhi dynasty

Many say Rahul was sent to Amethi as "a test case

"The opposition has been relentlessly focussing on Sonia's Italian origin and accusing the Congress of perpetuating dynasty rule.

If the children contest and campaign extensively, the Congress high command thinks the BJP may get some more ammunition.

"We feared the BJP would make a 'vote against the Gandhi dynasty' a major election issue. We feared it would affect the Congress, though that would have been the ideal decision," says yet another Congressman.

Poor strategists

"There were requests from Congress leaders from across the country to send out Rahul and Priyanka for campaigning. But I do not know why it was not done," admits Congress leader Salman Khurshid, one of the party's strategists.

There are numerous advisers who give Sonia political counsel that suit their interests. One of them says the issue was briefly discussed during a Congress Working Committee meeting.

"But I really do not know why it was not followed up," Khurshid adds.

Security concerns

The Special Protection Group gives Sonia and her children the highest protection. According to official sources, the home ministry thinks there is a threat to their lives.

Since her husband former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed during the election campaign in Tamil Nadu in May 1991, Sonia is understandably concerned about her children's security.

Last week Rahul cancelled two days of election tours in eastern UP after the SPG said the security arrangements were inadequate.

Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images | Image: Uday Kuckian

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Number of User Comments: 10

Sub: Dont Balme Sonia

The Congress leaders who feel that Sonia did not introduce Rahul and Priyanka are being absolutely foolish. Let me remind them she has answered all ...

Posted by Lovell

Sub: sonia is playing the right statergy

the press & media always showed negative critism toward sonia & spent more time in making a hero of vajpee when he is not when ...

Posted by cedric

Sub: Tread With Care

For a daughter-in -law who cradled the dying a wife she has seen her husband blown up in pieces.She has put all her emotions ...

Posted by ali Shahanshah

Sub: Nehru clan cannot sustain charishma

I donot agree with the reasons given in the article. As I understand one of the major reason is that most of Nehru clan are ...

Posted by Vinay Gupta

Sub: Politis

In central Both the BJP and Congress should not come one third party should come. Like that in Tamilnadu state Govt. also DMK and ADMK ...

Posted by prasanna


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