Priyanka Gandhi's speeches: Smart style, poor content

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Finally, Priyanka Gandhi is out in the open to take the fight to the opposition. The high turnout in each of the five phases of the ongoing Lok Sabha election perhaps compelled the Congress to play its final card. The 42-year-old sister of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has made a few addresses so far, mostly in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the two electoral homes of the country's first political family, and in all cases, it has been the family story, either Gandhi or Vadra.

So, the question is: Has the Congress anything new to offer apart from the history of the Gandhis which everyone has known by now?

Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday raised an emotional pitch in Rae Bareli. She had two calculations. First, to rake up the same sympathy factor which has worked wonders in the past and second, make a surprise attack on the Opposition from a high-profile constituency which, she knows, is always in the focus of the media. Priyanka knew that the platform at Rae Bareli would help her to reach out to the maximum audience. The attack continued on Day 2 as well when she raked up the Snoopgate issue to target Narendra Modi.

The Congress changed its stand on Robert Vadra after Priyanka Gandhi came to his defence and accused the BJP of targetting the Gandhi family. Earlier, it had distanced itself from the corruption charges against Vadra, saying he was a private person.

But does Priyanka Gandhi's emotional address to the people of Rae Bareli make any impact? Three reasons suggest that it is unlikely.

Why Priyanka Gandhi's speeches fail to excite

First, as a Bharatiya Naari, it is understandable that she is hurt by the allegations against her husband. We have seen the same thing happening when former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was accused as a thief and his wife Sonia Gandhi, the current Congress president, turning emotional. But when it comes to political and legal realities, the story is entirely different.

In the midst of a crucial election which is witnessing high turnouts, how much difference does a married woman's defending her husband make? Why doesn't she instead make a remark which is more objective about the allegations against her husband and not make it look like a word uttered out of sentimental compulsion?

Priyanka Gandhi talks about family values, her husband, but where is India?

Secondly, in the 21st Century, what does Priyanka Gandhi expect by raking up the same talks on family sentiments and values? Had it been 1970 or 1980, such appeals in a closed society would have made some influence. Today, words like "my grandmother taught me this..." look completely out of place. "I tell my children that the truth will be out today" is something very cinematic.

Even when she took on her cousin brother Varun Gandhi, she said he chose a wrong path. Who has given the Gandhis the right to decide which path is wrong or right? The tendency to don a guardian's mantle is certainly not going to pay any dividends today. India has changed a lot and Gandhis' are not the final words anymore.

Thirdly, Priyanka Gandhi contradicts herself when she starts attacking Narendra Modi the very next day after defending her husband. She rued that the Opposition kept on attacking her family but then why doesn't she herself set up a precedent by resisting the temptation? Why doesn't she acknowledge the pluralist nature of the anti-Congress mood and stop attacking a single individual? Priyanka Gandhi said these attacks are meant to mislead people. Then why is she herself indulging in the same politics and providing more food to the media to create a sensation about her offensive against Modi?

Ma, papa, daadi, husband... where are talks on issues?

It looks the current generation of Gandhis has been little exposed to the real political lessons. Whenever they speak, it is either about 'daadi', 'ma', 'papa' or 'husband'. Never do we get to hear about the legacy of Lal Bahadur Shastri or PV Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh (even if he was reportedly a rubber-stamp), leave alone an Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This exclusive and elitist culture has caused the Congress immense harm since it has narrowed down its focus to a family over the years. Today, there is no talk on policies and principles. It is either about the family or against a Gujarati. Does the Congress want the entire nation turn into a caged parrot?

The answer might not be far off.

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