When the outrage over Hathras rape case started growing, a “journalist” called it a God given opportunity to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra ahead of UP elections in around 18 months time. When I read that, I got a sense of Deja Vu, because I distinctly remember several occasions when Gandhi siblings have tried to utilize these “God given” opportunities in Uttar Pradesh to launch their political careers, to little effect so far.
Back in May 2011, the villagers of Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida kidnapped 3 officials of Uttar Pradesh Road Transport Corporation while protesting against the land acquisition by the state, though the state of UP Roadways buses would have been a more worthy cause to kidnap those particular officials. Anyway, UP Police went in to rescue those officials (because in real life, Kundan from Raanjhnaa can’t just talk his way to their release), it resulted in a gun battle and 4 people were killed. Following the violence, several villagers were arrested, entry to the village was sealed and hundreds of policemen were deployed in the area.
Congress sensed a “God given opportunity” to launch Rahul Gandhi as a serious politician ahead of UP elections in 10 months time. Till then, Rahul Gandhi was trying to connect to the masses by trying to do things they imagined common people do, spending night with a tribal family, traveling in a train, watching a cricket match etc etc etc, but this was the big moment, to push him as the serious face who will lead Congress to win in Uttar Pradesh, and subsequently in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, that was the plan anyway.
Even though the entrance to the village was sealed, Rahul Gandhi managed to reach there on a motorcycle, to stand in solidarity with the villagers. All sorts of allegations were made regarding the murder of the famrers, rapes of women, and a heap of ash was allegedly found, where murdered farmers were burned. The journalists pushed the young politician as the messiah of the farmers, everything he said was reported without any basic fact-check, subsequently all the allegations were found baseless and even Rahul Gandhi backtracked on his remarks, saying he was misquoted, something that somehow always keeps happening to politicians.
Anyhow, the publicity Rahul Gandhi got during the incident helped Congress a lot in the elections that followed these protests, and Congress moved from 4th position in 2007, to 4th position in 2012, though they did make a gain of 6 seats and 3% vote share, so the plan can be considered slightly more successful than Bhalla-Robert plans in Andaz Apna Apna.
Now since the plan to launch Rahul as a serious politician through Bhatta Parsaul worked so well, Congress decided to use the same script for his sister Priyanka. After years of “Barsaati Mendhak” politics, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra decided to enter politics full time ahead of 2019 elections and ever since then, it has been very clear that Congress is targeting 2022 UP elections to catapult her to the status of serious national leader (Contrary to what family beat journalists say about her nose, nobody considers her a political heavyweight right now).
The first attempt to use a tragedy to her political advantage was made in Sonbhadra in July 2019, just a couple of months after the General elections. In a horrific incident over land dispute, 10 tribal persons were shot dead by Gujjars in the village of Ubha in Sonbhadra district. Land mafia, rampant in Sonbhadra for decades, shot dead the Gond tribals claiming ownership over the land they had cultivated for years. Immediately after the massacre, Priyanka Ji was sent to Ubha village, to question the UP Government’s inaction in the case, even though dozens were arrested in the case by then, the charge sheet eventually named 51 people.
Few months later, came the next tragedy tourism visit, to Unnao, after the case of rape and murder of a 23 years old. With the nation still outraged over Hyderabad rape and murder case and subsequent encounter, this was the perfect time to capitalize on a “God-given opportunity” as that journalist put it. This time, Priyanka Ji was already in Lucknow for a visit, and could quickly head to Unnao to meet the family of the girl who had been killed.
Now with elections coming up in UP again, Congress has made the same play again, to push Gandhi siblings as the face of a protest after a human tragedy in a part of Uttar Pradesh. Will they be more successful this time, or will they again jump from 4th to 4th, we wait and find out in 18 months’ time.