February 19, 2020
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"Everyone Wants To Know If We Are Contesting"

Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi were relaxed and more outspoken than usual when Outlook caught up with the brother-sister duo in Amethi-Rae Bareli. But, as expected, the two offered only vague hints about their intention to join politics. Excerpts

Jitender Gupta
"Everyone Wants To Know If We Are Contesting"
You have been touring the villages. Does it actually bother you, all this squalor, or is it just a pre-election gimmick?
Priyanka: Of course it bothers me. Look at the abysmal level of poverty here. Wouldn’t you be bothered?

But aren’t you in a far better position to do something about it?
Priyanka: I am trying to do something in my own way. The problem is that all everyone is interested in is whether I am joining active politics. You know, this has to come from within. No one can force this responsibility on me. If I feel that I have to join, I will. As of now, it is not happening. No one seems to be interested in finding out exactly why I keep coming here.

What brings you here?
Priyanka: There is a small project here, some self-help groups that empower women. I wanted to start in a small way with 60 groups. But they were so enthusiastic that the number went up to 400. There are 6,000 women involved in it. I know it is a drop in the ocean. But they have learnt to save, start an enterprise on their own. I find a lot of happiness in that.

Rahul: We came here to see what was happening to this work. But all that everyone wants to know is whether we are going to contest elections.

If you want to change things for the better, isn’t politics the tool to do it with?
Priyanka: You know everything doesn’t begin and end with politics. There are things that a person can do from outside as well. People always try to look at me through a prism. I am either Indira Gandhi’s grand-daughter or the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi.

Do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage?
Priyanka: It is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. This is what I am. It is a part of me.

Your mother seems to be cornered. She is fighting a lonely battle. Don’t you want to help her more actively?
Rahul: What makes you think she is cornered? She is in politics and she is fighting an election. She is not lonely.

Priyanka: I think she can handle things very well on her own. She is tough. Of course, we are there whenever she needs us. But I think she is doing just fine.

You have been interacting with people. Do you think people want a change? The bjp is going to the polls with the feelgood and development planks, do you think it finds a resonance with the people?
Priyanka: What kind of development are we talking about? Although I have no locus standi to say anything at all on the issue, it still is very shameful to see leaking thatched huts, people without jobs or without enough to eat. You can yourself see how good anyone can feel here.

Rahul: We are working under constraints here. It is not for us to make political statements. Unemployment is a very bad thing. But you should ask Atal Behari Vajpayee about it.

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