The “butter won’t melt in the mouth” image she had crafted for herself during the bitter electoral campaign has come unstuck quickly after the drubbing.

If there were mere “reports” that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had joined brother Rahul in lashing out at a few senior leaders at the post-poll closed-door meeting of the Congress Working Committee, “live” accounts have now emerged of her being openly miffed at the party’s fading fortunes.

What had been billed as a “thank you” visit to Rae Bareli for sending her mother back to the Lok Sabha turned out to be another occasion on which the great party hope visibly lost her cool ~ this time because Sonia only managed a substantially reduced victory-margin: and the “senior” Gandhi fell back to suspecting doctored electronic voting machines for her poor showing. The self-blown bubble of invincibility has been punctured ~ by the harsh reality that under Rahul’s leadership the Congress has lost so much of its earlier clout.

It was more than a sour-grapes narrative that the recently appointed general secretary for Eastern UP narrated at Rae Bareli on Thursday. “I did not want to speak here, but since you have insisted I will speak the truth, which is harsh. The fact is whoever worked for the party knows in his or her heart what they have done… and I will find out who hasn’t worked… I am saying that you did not fight the election sincerely”.

That was not all Mrs Vadra had to say, “This is the time of struggle. Those who are nervous, those who are willing to compromise, and those who are not ready to give their hearts to the struggle… for them I will leave no space in the Rae Bareli Congress and the UP Congress”.. Striking a Mamata-Mayawati brand of stridency, Priyanka asserted, “You make up your mind, if you want to work in right earnest, you have to struggle, this is all I have to say”.

Has she got carried away by the palace retainers who see another Indira on the horizon even before the eclipse of Rahul? Mrs Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia, with whom she shares responsibility for UP (she did better, delivered Rae Bareli while he drew a blank), are planning further stock-taking sessions. Priyanka has spoken of the Congress contesting UP assembly polls on its own ~ as if others are in a queue to hold hands… It is obviously too soon to assess her impact on reviving the demoralised party as had been hoped when she was persuaded/pressured to take the plunge.

Her novelty value did attract crowds but that did not translate into votes ~ Amethi was surrendered. Unfortunately, there was a strong underpinning of arrogant entitlement to her maiden post-poll foray, but she will have still to prove that she is made of sterner stuff. And not sulk like Rahul.