In 2004, Sonia Gandhi ensured a spectacular win for the Congress and also wove an alliance, with the party projecting her as a woman taking on the mighty men of the BJP — especially a stalwart and ace politician like Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The more the BJP attacked her on her Italian origins and some made personal comments on her, the more Sonia Gandhi was determined to play the lone woman card against the BJP. And it worked.
Cut to 2022, Sonia Gandhi is angry again and it’s once again a lone woman against the BJP strategy. Just a day after the “embarrassment” Congress faced over Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s ‘Rashtrapatni’ comment, which got the BJP up in arms, the Grand Old Party has changed tracks. This, according to sources, is a clear thought-out strategy.
It began with Chowdhury himself saying that the BJP was targeting a woman who had given the Women’s Reservation Bill to the country. Then, Mallikarjun Kharge moved a notice in Rajya Sabha objecting to the ‘treatment meted out to Sonia Gandhi in Lok Sabha’.
The Congress knows it is Sonia Gandhi alone who can ensure that the Opposition comes on the same page on the issue. In fact, both Supriya Sule of the NCP and Mahua Moitra of the TMC jumped to Sonia Gandhi’s defence, saying they were witness to the way the Congress president was treated.
Even now, in comparison to her son Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi is seen as a more successful politician. This is why even though the TMC has no love for the Congress, Mamata Banerjee continues to maintain a good equation with Sonia Gandhi and also attends opposition meetings if called by her. Most opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar and Banerjee prefer to do business with Sonia Gandhi. And the Congress knows this.
WOMAN CARD FOR 2024
To counter Chowdhury, the BJP deployed its women MPs on the ‘Rashtrapatni’ issue. Smriti Irani, Meenakshi Lekhi and Nirmala Sitharaman were all out and about. The narrative used by them and the BJP was that a woman President was targeted.
Women are the flavour of the political season. In 2024, it’s their votes that the BJP is eyeing and has hence announced several schemes for women empowerment. The Congress under Sonia Gandhi too wants to use this narrative to woo women voters for 2024. And it feels Sonia Gandhi is its best bet.
RAE BARELI CHALLENGE
So far, the only seat the Congress has in UP is Rae Bareli, which is represented by Sonia Gandhi. After tasting success in Amethi, once a Gandhi family bastion, the BJP clearly now has set its eyes on Rae Bareli.
There is uncertainty whether Sonia Gandhi’s health will permit her to contest in 2024. Priyanka Vadra seems reluctant and the BJP hopes to win this seat too in 2024. But the Congress has slowly begun to gauge this and unlike in Amethi, where their complacence hurt them, here the Congress is alert.
If, for argument sake, Priyanka Vadra contests in place of her mother, an aggressive, angry and back-in-action Sonia Gandhi will try to ensure that her daughter gets the sympathy votes, signalling the return of the Sonia Gandhi of 2004.