"They can take whatever action they want. I am Indira Gandhi's granddaughter, not an undeclared BJP spokesperson like some of the opposition leaders."
This was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra a few days back after the Uttar Pradesh government sent her a notice regarding a Facebook post in which she criticised the Kanpur shelter home incident where 57 girls tested positive for coronavirus.
It rings now as news came in on Wednesday of an eviction notice from her Delhi home where Gandhi has lived since her marriage. 35, Lodhi Estate -- a two-room bungalow -- has been the her residence where she shifted after her wedding in 1997. As a protectee under the Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover and due to the threat perception, Gandhi was given this sprawling bungalow. But questions have occasionally been raised by the BJP over her sense of entitlement to this bungalow in posh Lutyens' Delhi.
The writing was on the wall that Gandhi would soon have to vacate the bungalow when her SPG protection, as well as that of her mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi, was removed late last year. The withdrawal also means she is no longer entitled to a 6B-type bungalow. And certainly not as a private citizen, unlike Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi is not a MP. She merely holds a party post as in-charge of Uttar Pradesh.
As per the government order, Gandhi will have to vacate the bungalow by August 1. In fact, there were some Congress functionaries who advised Gandhi to enter the Rajya Sabha in order to keep the government accommodation. But she was outright in her refusal.
Most in the Congress have called it a witch hunt and a diversionary tactic. But so far, Gandhi has remained silent. Sources close to her say that "they have awakened a 'sherni' (tigress)", that she will use this to "fight back". And that is where the comparison with Indira Gandhi comes in.
Indira Gandhi had seen a humiliating defeat in 1977. When most saw the near-death of the Congress and her political demise came the Belchi moment. In heavy rainfall, Indira Gandhi rode an elephant when she heard the news of the killing of Dalits in Bihar's Belchi village. That was her turnaround moment and Indira Gandhi soon romped back to power and her Emergency blues were soon forgotten.
A lesson which was soon aped by Sonia Gandhi, who used the humiliation she faced within the party to make her political debut. She marched to Amethi and her daughter then accused Arun Nehru of betrayal and Sonia Gandhi used it to hit back at her opponents in the party. The rest is history.
To Sonia Gandhi goes the credit of stitching the UPA and bring her party to power in 2004 for two successive terms. The Congress then was considered to be an end game, with no one to match the might of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Priyanka Gandhi today stands at similar a crossroad. She has to prove her mettle as a politician and UP is no easy ground. The Congress barely has an organisational structure there. While Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have yet to come to grips, the sway of Yogi Adityanath and the BJP seems supreme.
But efforts are being made by Priyanka Gandhi in a do-or-die battle. Which is why she fought over the migrants issue and made an issue of Congress state in-charge Ajay Kumar Lallu being denied bailed for over 20 days. Accusing Mayawati of being a BJP spokesperson, Priyanka Gandhi wants to make the battle in the state between the BJP and the Congress.
But she plans to move beyond this. The party gave a hint that Priyanka Gandhi would vacate. But there are indications she would want to use this as her Belchi moment. She has been house-hunting in Lucknow and a home has been zeroed in on. It would be a huge political statement to make.
An interesting fact is that Indira Gandhi had also shifted to Lucknow with husband Feroze near the Charbagh station. In all likelihood, Priyanka Gandhi may shift to Lucknow soon and use it to make her political base and ensure her party cadre is enthused.
Priyanka Gandhi has come a cropper when she campaigned ahead of the last Assembly elections. The Congress fared badly even in the family bastions of Amethi and Raebareli. A common complaint against her has been that she would visit for a few days and then leave. Not staying put there disappointed her party cadre and voters who found no reason to vote for a " tourist neta".
Priyanka Gandhi wants to change this impression because that is the only way she can build the organisation. But in politics, it is also important to make the first move. It was inevitable that after the withdrawal of the SPG cover, she would have to vacate the house. In fact, Priyanka Gandhi had begun home-scouting much earlier and was planning to shift closer to the polls.
But it is quite possible she may now shift earlier that planned. But then the first advantage strike has gone to the BJP and Priyanka Gandhi has lost one chance she could have had she shifted earlier. But those who know her closely say she will still use this to make her point.
"The Indira in her will ensure she finds her Belchi moment," says a source in the Congress. The question, however, is: Should she have seen the elephant in the room earlier?