There are two factors here:
- The Congress Party wants to act obsequious, so anything remotely connected with the family will be wooed.
- The Opposition sees this as an opportunity to bait.
Let us get a few fundamentals out of the way. Spouses, siblings and even special friends campaign during elections. There is always a trusted group. Atal Behari Vajpayee had his adopted family; L.K.Advani has his daughter; and almost all the ‘maharajahs’ have family members involved. Elections are about immediate and extended families.
Robert Vadra had to make a sacrifice when he married. He broke ties with his own family. Is he looking for some returns? This is what he said:
“I am here for my brother-in-law. For me politics will come if I think I can make a difference for the people, only when I can feel I can focus and I can give my best and full attention for the development of the people. I am totally enjoying what I am doing right now. The family I married into is in politics. It's something I cannot run away from. When the time is right, if it is what is required at that time may be yes but my focus is on my work right now.”
Priyanka said he was misquoted and he is happy with his “vyaapar” (business). The news clip immediately cut to the portion where he did mention that if people wanted he would join politics. Is it unusual? Not quite. He knows that Indians like package deals. We do not consider nepotism bad; it is our birthright. We assume that experience rubs off on those in one family. He used the words “cannot run away from” where he was trying to convey a sense of responsibility. He is also seen as a son of the Gandhis, for he is there on every occasion, especially on death anniversaries, seated in white kurta pyjama to share the moment.
There will be sniggers over this comment:
“Right now it is Rahul's time, Priyanka's time will also come.”
It is a smart one. That Priyanka has chosen to play homemaker earns him brownie points. It means that while supportive of her aspirations, he is also in control. Her “time will also come” sends out a nice patriarchal promise to a patriarchal society that the lady they think should play an active role might do so in the future, so support her brother now.
Whether as asset or as baggage Robert Vadra will work in favour of Rahul Gandhi. In one scenario, he will be the strong backdrop; in the other, the guy who makes Rahul look so good and correct that he just cannot fail.
- - -
Rahul Gandhi says that unlike others he has no ambition of being Prime Minister. It is time the Congress initiated him in a real role with some other portfolio. The grassroots stuff is good, but he cannot be walking around all the time. He should put himself to test, if it is the language of politics he wants to talk.