Rajiv Gandhi Tamil Nadu Connect: Will Priyanka’s Move Matter Here?

Will Priyanka Gandhi’s foray into politics make a difference to the Congress’ influence in Tamil Nadu?

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Priyanka Gandhi was made the general secretary of the Congress and in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, 23 January. It will, however, be wrong to judge her influence as limited to one sphere. She is turning the Congress' narrative into a strong multi-starrer along with her brother, Rahul Gandhi.

So, will her foray into politics make a difference to the Congress’ influence in Tamil Nadu?

The Quint, in its special Chaupal series spoke to people in Chennai who opined that that it won't, as the state is still rooted in its Dravidian politics.

Unlike the BJP, the Congress has a moderate presence all over the state. They have been piggy-backing with the DMK for years now.

"Maybe her look is similar to [that of] Indira Gandhi’s, but as far as the Congress is concerned, their presence is even shrinking here," said Vadivel, a resident of Chennai.


Priyanka’s link to the state, however, dates back to the days following her father, Rajiv Gandhi’s death. In later years, she moved many when she opened up about how she came to terms with his death, and how she went from being a 19-year-old “furious with the world” to a “forgiving daughter”.

"The fact that she forgave the convicts won't matter at all, because the first-time voters, that is, the 1990s kids, and other young voters today don't know about the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. So I don't think they will get any votes here," said Lokesh, a Chennaite.

Another reason people here believe that any party from beyond the state, even national parties, fail to make a massive impact in Tamil Nadu – as compared to the DMK and AIADMK – is because of the language barrier.

The state is rooted in its fascination for the Tamil language and over the years, political icons like J Jayalalithaa, M Karunanidhi and their predecessors won people over with their eloquent speeches in Tamil.

"Translations never work. It's nothing like a leader actually talking. It's like a commitment from the leader. If Narendra Modi speaks, people feel that is his commitment. This was probably the biggest reason why he (Modi) didn't make that big an impact last time," opined Antony Rubin, another resident of Chennai.


Vadivel, however, believes this move by the Congress would backfire. "The Congress has already been criticised for dynasty politics. So, they should've avoided bringing Priyanka to politics," he said.

Many analysts noted that on the day of the announcement of the news, social media was buzzing about how Priyanka will be making waves this election season.

Antony Rubin, however, contends that tweets are not going to convert into votes.

"That is insignificant, because people who are on Twitter will go on a long weekend when the election comes. It is a very small percentage that converts into vote bank. I think after Divya Spandana took over as the IT wing person in the Congress, there has been a tremendous change in their social media presence. Modi used social media to establish (himself) when he came to power in 2014. The Congress is doing the same thing," he added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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