In politics, a strong challenge is never received lightly and if it comes across as a fake call, then the person is not taken seriously thereafter.
Priyanka Gandhi by maintaining the suspense on her candidature from Varanasi’s Lok Sabha seat has made a serious error which she must avoid in future or her image would coalesce into a politician who is all thunder sans rain.
In past, politicians like Arjun Singh and Sharad Pawar suffered the same fate. After a point in time, none of them was taken seriously as contenders in Delhi. Similarly, it may boomerang in the long run for Priyanka Gandhi too.
She allowed Congress to gain space in media but ended up giving a handle to BJP in the last 4 phases of elections.
Henceforth, the attack on Congress would be brutal and direct. Priyanka Gandhi will be attacked for not having a stomach for a strong political fight.
What prompted Priyanka to keep people guessing remains a mystery but even Congress party president Rahul Gandhi did nothing to clear the fog. He participated in it by stating that he would like to keep the suspense on. It did not work. It fuelled the expectations which were not met, eventually, disappointing many.
The issue is as to what was the thinking behind keeping the suspense on? Did Congress develop cold feet in the end? Did Rahul Gandhi overrule her on the ground that she cannot give a fight to Narendra Modi and her loss would affect both party and her career? Lastly, why did it take Congress a month to realise that Modi is unbeatable in Varanasi? Was it not visible right at the start of the election campaign? Did a real possibility exist on the ground to defeat Modi? My take is that no such circumstances ever existed but even then Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sought suggestions from her constituents during her meeting in Amethi and Raebareli on fighting from Varanasi.
Whatever may be the real reason, it is not available to media. In its absence, BJP will make Priyanka’s exit an electoral issue. BJP now can go to town shouting that Priyanka Vadra shied away from the big battle of Uttar Pradesh.
The discourse will be shifted from her charismatic appeal and being natural to her inability to stand up to a strong challenge. This will invite a focus on the top leadership of the Congress and fuel discourse that ‘family’ cannot look beyond safe seats. It will also make Gandhi's look less serious in public discussion. Priyanka in 2012 had once said, "Main Aaun Kya." She did not. It has happened again.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)