A positive, charitable view of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s “taking the plunge” would be that de jure recognition has been accorded to what has long been a de facto reality: she has been actively involved in the management of Congress affairs for quite some time now, and not confined only to the family backyard of Amethi and Rae Bareli. The contrarian view would be that the Congress has realised, eventually, that it takes more than what Rahul boasts to revive itself in a state widely believed to hold the key to Raisina Hill. Either way it is an admission that the party stands virtually decimated in UP, and is so politically distraught that it has been pressured into playing its last “Gandhi card” to ward off being reduced to less than an also ran a few months down the road. It is a gamble rooted in desperation, for the electoral successes in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh do not appear to have galvanised what remains of the party cadres to put up a bold front ~ either against the Modi-Adityanath duo, or the Mayawati- Akhilesh combine that until now has resisted the Congress’ efforts to be included in the anti-BJP exercise. That Rahul just claimed he had little quarrel with the latter only reconfirmed the urgency to fall back on the charisma Priyanka reportedly inherited from her grandmother. Alas, as was the case with Sonia, an image of reluctance has been created around Priyanka ~ there has been no affirmation of her contesting the polls despite the buzz about her replacing her ailing mother in Rae Bareli. A clear indication that she was ready to “dirty her hands” might have proved inspirational to lethargic party workers. Uncommitted observers would await the Priyanka-Smriti Irani battle ~ a potentially explosive side-show.

For all that Rahul may say about his sister’s capabilities, his turning to her for salvation is an indication of admitting to his own limitations in the state that matters most, even if he has done well elsewhere in northern India. And if Priyanka can indeed wave a magic wand with the electorate there would be increasing clamour for her to play a larger role. For truth be told, Rahul does not yet quite create an impression of taking his race against Modi down to the wire. The Congress is in dire need of a “fresh” face; Priyanka’s could be the one with the charm ~ at least with adequate charm to convince party stalwarts who believe that Rahul is no match-winner. The BJP has certainly been impacted, it’s reviving the “dynasty” criticism proves that. It has also suggested that the induction is an acceptance by the Congress of Rahul’s failure; a charge that might have carried weight before the BJP’s electoral reverses in recent months. Soon it could seek to target Robert Vadra’s alleged shenanigans, there’s no limit to the depths to which politics can sink. If Priyanka can weather that personal storm she will have proved that like her grandmother she can play dirty too.