Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday said she was “pained” that her husband, Robert Vadra, was being targeted for political reasons and that the attacks had only strengthened her resolve to fight.
Priyanka has seldom made emotional speeches ever since she started campaigning for her mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and brother, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, at their respective Lok Sabha seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi. But whenever Priyanka used such a ploy, the results, as her uncle Arun Nehru had discovered in 1999, had been devastating for her opponents.
Priyanka, the younger of Rajiv Gandhi’s two children, while campaigning in Rae Bareli, countered Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s attack on her husband’s alleged illegal land deals. She said Vadra was being attacked by the BJP to divert the attention of people from development issues to “meaningless talk” and that the “truth” about her husband will prevail.
On Monday, Modi during an election speech had questioned how Robert could have made Rs 300 crore from an investment of a Rs 1 lakh.
The BJP dismissed Priyanka’s speech as a last ditch effort to save a sinking Congress, particularly her husband from prosecution under a Modi-led government at the Centre.
Priyanka, addressing a crowd in Rae Bareli, said: "When you watch TV, what do you see? (They use) harsh words; ridicule my family. A lot of things are said about my husband. I feel pained. I feel pained, not for myself, not because somebody is ridiculing and the truth is not being told, not because everyday I tell my children that the truth will prevail.”
A mother of two children, Priyanka said she felt “pained at the kind of politics that has come to the fore in these elections” when it “should have been contested on development, needs of the people, employment for youth....instead, an attempt is being made to mislead you towards meaningless talk.”
Later, she told reporters: “There has been a political attack on my family. They have used my husband for political attack. It has been going on for two years and I feel very strongly about it." She said she learnt from her grandmother Indira Gandhi to fight back as "truth is like a shield".
Priyanka, whom many Congress leaders rate as somebody more suited for politics, criticised what she termed politics of divisiveness. She said the country has accepted her mother Sonia, who was not born here, but now attempts are being made to inject "poison".
"Do you want a country of the Buddha, of Mahatma Gandhi where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians live together or a country where you fight one another and one community is taken forward while another is left behind and division is created in terms of caste and religion," she asked the gathering.
She said she was confident that people of the constituency would vote for Sonia. “My mother has always been with you through your struggles and you too have been with her through her struggles,” she told the gathering.
The Congress, which has until now termed Robert a private individual, criticised Modi for levelling "cheap and baseless" allegations against the members of the Gandhi family.
In 1999, Priyanka, campaigning for family confidante Satish Sharma in Rae Bareli, had attacked her uncle and Sharma’s rival in the electoral fray Arun Nehru for having betrayed her father Rajiv. “I have a complaint against you,” she told the voters. She said “a man who committed treachery while he was in my father’s ministry, who stabbed a brother in the back – answer – how did you let such a man in here?” Nehru, contesting on a BJP ticket, lost the election even though his party did reasonably well in the rest of UP and went on to lead the government at the Centre.
Nearly a week ago, Priyanka had criticised her cousin Varun Gandhi, the BJP candidate from Sultanpur, for his ‘hate’ speech made in 2009 elections. Priyanka called her brother’s actions a “betrayal” of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The BJP shot back with its national treasurer Piyush Goyal stating she should have been pained when "wrongdoings" were committed by her family members.
The BJP, later in the day, approached the Election Commission within hours of Priyanka's speech, complaining the Congress and Samajwadi Party were creating an atmosphere of violence in the four UP seats of Kannauj, Eta, Mainpuri and Ferozabad.
Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said BJP leaders like Modi had resorted to petty politicking and malicious campaign. He said similar attacks by the BJP on Indira and Rajiv had failed in the past. Surjewala said there was a BJP-sponsored public interest litigation before the Allahabad High Court in this regard and it was rejected in March 2013 by the court, which said the PIL was filed with a motive.
"Not satisfied with the verdict of the division bench of the high court, members of Sangh Parivar and friends of Modi sponsored another litigation in the guise of a PIL in the Supreme Court. It was in fact a private interest litigation to help the BJP."
"Even in the Supreme Court it was rejected, which questioned the motive behind the PIL and observed that it was not a sin to be a relative of a particular leader. The matter should have rested after being tested by the highest court of India," he said.