https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/The-underage-optimist/the-priyanka-factor-she-has-already-attracted-cameras-time-she-took-over-the-mikes/A few days ago, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did her first road show since officially entering politics. Along with brother Rahul and other senior leaders, they drove through the streets of Lucknow waving at supporters and fans.
Congress called the roadshow a turning point in UP politics and fortunes of the party in the state. While only time will tell if that is indeed the case, it is true the roadshow attracted massive attention.
Every major media outlet covered the event. It also made it to primetime debates on almost every news channel. This enormous visibility obviously doesn’t happen every time Congress does a rally in UP or elsewhere, which happen in the dozens before every state or general election.
This alone shows the value of Priyanka, or the P-factor, to Congress in these elections. To those questioning what difference will Priyanka make, the biggest one is that she will capture the cameras and media attention owing to her freshness and novelty value.
Both Rahul and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are known entities, and we have heard them since 2014. Priyanka, on the other hand, is fresh as far as her political approach is concerned. We want to know what she has to say.
Which brings us to something else that happened, or rather didn’t happen at the road show. Priyanka didn’t talk. Rahul did. Although he spoke well, the novelty value of the event came from Priyanka’s presence. While a smile here and a wave there from her evokes some interest, what people really care about, and what can make the P-factor multiply its dividends to Congress, is when she has something to say.
Maybe Priyanka not talking in the UP roadshow was strategic. Perhaps Congress has a better occasion in mind. Or maybe they want to gradually reveal Priyanka, thereby stretching out the media attention and novelty value through several events. These count as valid reasons that she hasn’t spoken yet.
However, it’s not good if she kept quiet for these reasons: a) she didn’t want to overshadow Rahul; b) Congress is still figuring out what she has to say; c) it’s a conscious strategy to make her speak less to keep up the mystique; and d) it’s thought she doesn’t owe explaining her vision to people, the name is enough.
Priyanka has to ultimately talk a fair amount if she wants to make a dent in the elections. It’s important to understand that this dent doesn’t have to be (and is unlikely to be) massive.
All Priyanka has to do is to shave off a 1-2% vote share from BJP and in favour of Congress. That’s it. A 1-2% vote share, or a shift of 3-6 million voters, can make a difference of 10-20 seats. This in turn can present a very different set of options for government formation post-election.
But to do this Priyanka will have to start talking, and soon. And when she does, her first five speeches or interviews will be crucial. In those, she will have to come across as a) a sharp and clear thinker; b) a modern and naturally secular Indian; c) someone who is comfortable speaking to the classes and the masses (in English and Hindi); d) someone who not only knows what is going wrong in India, but what it will take to make it right; and e) a likeable and relatable person.
These are all simple qualities, but to show one has them all together is a tough ask. All these aspects need not come through in one speech or interview. However, the first few times she speaks, will create first impressions that will be imprinted in people’s minds for a long time.
Needless to say, there needs to be massive preparation for this. While there’s definitely attention on Priyanka given her lineage, Indians cut only so much dynastic slack these days. People will give her the stage, and maybe even a honeymoon period. But soon enough she will have to demonstrate talent, which is visible and beyond reasonable doubt.
With less than three months to elections, it would perhaps be useful for Congress to fix the times and places where Priyanka would speak. Maybe a combination of events – at an elite college with an open to students Q&A, at a mass rally, at a conclave and a tough, no holds barred interview with an English or Hindi channel may be a good start to show she fits in everywhere.
It doesn’t matter if she’s not being projected as the PM candidate. She doesn’t even need to appeal to a vote bank. Her job in this election is simply to make a dent – by stealing attention and showing she has something fresh and sensible to say, thus moving a few points vote share in her party’s favour.
Not speaking much or staying in the sidelines, however humble, could be risky. We live in times of content overload. Right or wrong, every voter is spending several hours a day consuming content on his or her phone.
If the P-factor is to work, these people need to be reached and their attention kept. This requires engaging content comprising visuals as well as words. A wave and smile roadshow can only go so far. Priyanka has already attracted a lot of cameras. It’s time she took over the mikes.