Priyanka Gandhi, a scion of India’s most famous political dynasty, has formally entered politics ahead of a looming national election, joining the opposition campaign in a crucial state where the party her family founded hopes to unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her appointment has come at a time when the party has only seven seats in the UP Assembly and holds only two Lok Sabha seats of family boroughs in Amethi and Rae Bareilly. The general impression is that Priyanka is more articulating, forceful, and more charismatic than his brother Rahul.
One agrees that she is a popular figure in Indian politics, drawing crowds wherever she goes. She brings with her the grace of Gandhi-Nehru lineage and her immense personal charm. She has mostly stayed in the shadow of her brother Rahul, heir-apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. She appears to be a smarter politician than Rahul and is a better speaker, especially in Hindi, more rooted, more natural. She reminds people of late PM Indira Gandhi. She also appears to be more aggressive, more political. Her persona and demeanor are near identical to her grandmother who is still very much alive in the collective public memory as a popular Prime Minister. She is considered as a potential inheritor of the Gandhi family.
In one of her interview to BBC, she strongly said that “I am very clear in my mind. Politics is not a strong pull, the people are. And I can do things for them without being in politics. I have said it a thousand times; I am not interested in joining politics”. In the Indian general election for the year 2004, she was her mother’s main campaign manager and helped her brother Rahul in his campaign. In a press meeting during these elections, she said, “Politics is all about serving the people and I am already doing that. I may continue doing only that for five years more”.
She, however, makes frequent visits to her mother’s and brother’s constituency of Rae Bareilly and Amethi where she deals with the people directly which she appears to enjoy. She is reputed as a good organiser, level headed and is believed to be her mother’s chief advisor on political matters.
If Priyanka becomes a public face of the Congress party, she will overshadow her brother very quickly. The analysts feel giving Ms. Gandhi a bigger role will help the party in the general elections. There is a feeling that Rahul Gandhi has not evoked as much response as was expected. Sonia Gandhi’s poor health has also forced Priyanka to give more backing to Rahul.
Priyanka’s entry into active politics was a long-term wish of many Congress workers. She reminds them of Indira Gandhi’s attractive pleasing personality and is a new face for the Congress. One thing is also clear that she has no baggage of failures or controversies. It is also observed that such personalities sometimes increase the vote share by 5 to 7 per cent. Narendra Modi always increases such vote share when he personally does hectic election campaigns. Thus, increasing 7 per cent vote means around 14 to 15 per cent of votes of the Congress may not increase their seats beyond 5-6. Neither is Priyanka Gandhi’s appointment as General Secretary a clear win for the party, which has been dominated by her family for decades. It’s just an acknowledgment that Congress President Rahul Gandhi can’t face down Modi alone and opens the party to new avenues of criticism over its reliance on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Her debut in politics is viewed by some as a “trump card” that could help the Congress party as it tries to oust Modi’s BJP from power but she has had limited involvement in earlier elections, managing the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi. There is no one in the opposition who can match the charisma of Modiji. The BJP is not at all worried.
In an apparent reference to Priyanka Gandhi, PM Modi has rightly said that in the BJP, decisions are not taken on the wishes of a person or family. “In our party, decisions are taken on the basis of what party workers want.” Sambit Patra, the BJP spokesperson also rightly commented that “Congress is resorting to ‘family alliance’ as it’s initially proposed grand alliance failed to bear fruit.”Modi also said that the BJP is driven by democratic principles. “Democracy runs in the veins of BJP that is why people of the country feel closer to the party.”