July 12, 2020
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Their Swadeshi Card

The party looks towards Rajiv’s children to bury the Italian bogey

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Their Swadeshi Card
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Even off the record, Congress leaders are reluctant to concede that party president Sonia Gandhi’s Italian birth could snowball into an election issue. And when they do, it’s with a nervous glance over the shoulder.

However, in tacit acknowledgement that the bjp’s swadeshi versus videshi campaign just might click, a section of party leaders have urged Sonia to field one or both her children in the ’99 Lok Sabha polls. This, they feel, may take the edge off the bjp attack.

Indeed, while some party leaders have been falling over themselves to offer Sonia "safe" seats—Jodhpur, Medak, Cuddapah, Satara—others would prefer it if she did not contest, on the plea that she will have to campaign all over India and cannot be expected to devote time to a single constituency. If there must be a Gandhi in the electoral arena, popular preference is for Priyanka.

Plans are afoot to persuade Priyanka to contest from Amethi, Sultanpur or Rae Bareilly. "It will have to be from somewhere in UP to create any impact," says a Congress MP. None of these are "safe" seats. Although Amethi has been a pocket borough of the Gandhis, family retainer Satish Sharma was trounced after he earned the ire of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

If Sonia chooses to contest herself, Congress leaders would still like Rahul and Priyanka to campaign for the party, particularly in UP. After revision of electoral rolls, a major chunk of the electorate will fall in the 18 to 35 age group and it is this section that the Congress hopes to target through Priyanka.

Even before an official decision has been taken, partymen are putting in demands for appearances by Priyanka at public meetings. They feel she’s politically savvy, has tremendous charisma and would be the party’s best crowd-puller. Besides being undisputably Indian.

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