The two Congress members, Shreesh Chandra Dubey and Haseeb Ahmad, had put up hoardings in Allahabad city which said since Congress president Sonia Gandhi was unwell and vice-president Rahul Gandhi was overburdened, it was important for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to campaign for the party and contest from Phoolpur, a seat which was once represented by late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The party has sought an explanation from the duo for their conduct and projecting the Congress chief as ill and dragging Priyanka's name into politics.
Putting up the hoardings when Rahul is trying to make a mark was not unnecessary
But the suspension hasn't killed the headache for the Congress. The hoarding might have been removed, but the Congress leadership is worried over the consequences of such move. For making Priyanka Gandhi Vadra a candidate is not a big issue. The headache is: An explicit projection of Priyanka as the third major Gandhi in the fray could throw the Congress camp into confusion six months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
But one suspects the Congress was not entirely unwilling to back Priyanka Gandhi as an alternative leader. There could be some reasons behind that.
One, the Rahul Gandhi magic hasn't worked so far for the party, which is reportedly worried over the thin attendance at the recent rallies that the vice-president addressed in Uttar Pradesh. Two more rallies were even scrapped. This is definitely worrying, given the fact that rival Narendra Modi is addressing a series of mega rallies across the country.
Two, Priyanka Gandhi looks more suitable to boost the party in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, with which the Gandhis have an old connection. Rahul Gandhi did a good job in the state in the 2009 parliamentary polls but failed badly in the 2012 assembly polls. This time, surveys are indicating at a collapse of the party in the state, which perhaps has made the party more apprehensive about Rahul's performance. Hence, Priyanka is a fresh option.
Three, the Congress is somehow trying to revive the Indira Gandhi factor through Priyanka, in whom many have often found a shadow of her grandmother. To counter the Modi wave, the Congress might feel that a charismatic woman leader could serve its cause better. If Modi is targetting the youth, Priyanka could be the Congress's trump card to draw the women voters.
The ploy could have proved effective in foxing the opponent but the Congress's problem is that there is little strategic intelligence in whatever it does.
This is perhaps caused by the culture of sycophancy. The projection of Priyanka should have been done softly by the top leadership as a Plan B but the overenthusiastic supporters played the spoilsport by putting up hoardings that also expressed doubts on the leadership of Sonia and Rahul. It was unnecessary, particularly when the party was not yet done with its Plan A, i.e., gradual elevation of Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress took a strong step in suspending the two members, but the damage had already been done by then.