Leaders of the Indian National Congress run for election

Via Meryl Sebastian, BBC News, KochiJugal Purohit, BBC Hindi, Delhi

Getty Images Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra clasps her hands as she launches the party's manifesto for the 2024 elections, at the Congress headquarters on April 5, 2024 in New Delhibeautiful images

Priyanka Gandhi has campaigned for the Congress Party for decades but officially entered politics in 2019

Priyanka Gandhi, the sister of India’s main opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, is set to run in her first election, ending decades of anticipation among her supporters.

Ms. Gandhi is a descendant of the Nehru-Gandhi family, India’s most famous political dynasty, and her election debut will be closely watched.

The 52-year-old will contest the Wayanad seat in the southern Indian state of Kerala after her brother gave it up.

A victory for Mrs. Gandhi would mean the presence of all three Gandhi family members in the Indian parliament.

Her mother, Sonia Gandhi, a former president of the Congress party, is an MP in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

Her brother Gandhi won the recent assembly elections from both Rae Bareli seats in Wayanad and Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Gandhi, who has represented Wayanad as an MP since 2019, is giving up the post because he can only hold one parliamentary seat under Indian law. On Monday, he thanked the people of Wayanad for their “love, affection and support”.

The date for the by-election is yet to be announced but Mrs Gandhi said she was “not worried at all”.

“I am happy to represent Wayanad and I will not let them feel him. [Rahul Gandhi’s] absence,” she said Monday. “I will work hard and try my best to make everyone happy and be a good representative.”

The by-election will mark the end of decades of wait by Congress supporters for Mrs. Gandhi’s entry into electoral politics.

Getty ImagesFormer Congress President Sonia Gandhi on right with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in center and Rahul Gandhi on left at a public meeting on May 17, 2024 in Rae Barelibeautiful images

A victory for Mrs. Gandhi (standing between her brother and mother) means that all three members of the Gandhi family are present in the Indian parliament.

Journalist Javed Ansari, who has covered the Congress Party for decades, told BBC Hindi that he was not surprised by the announcement.

“I think it’s a matter of when [she would contest] not if,” he said.

For many years, Mrs. Gandhi was considered the more famous of the Gandhi siblings as many blamed her brother’s “lackluster leadership” for a string of defeats in the Congress since 2014. until 2019.

From an early age, people pointed out that Mrs. Gandhi resembled her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Mrs. Gandhi actively participated in her mother’s election campaigns since the late 1990s. She also campaigned for her brother when he became active in politics in 2004.

Senior leaders have praised her political acumen and ability to communicate with people.

Mrs. Gandhi officially entered politics when she was assigned to be in charge of the Congress’ election campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh state, before the 2019 general election.

The Congress continued to perform poorly in that election and the 2022 assembly polls, but Ms. Gandhi was not blamed. Senior party leaders said the performance did not reflect her work and was in line with their expectations.

Appointed Congress general secretary in 2019, Ms. Gandhi has since overseen the party’s campaigns in several state elections.

Party leaders say she played a key role in stabilizing the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh this year amid rebellion by some lawmakers in the state.

She also spearheaded the Congress campaign in Uttar Pradesh – where opposition parties did surprisingly well – and especially in the Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

“She held the fort for Rahul and that is how he was able to campaign across the country,” Mr. Ansari said.

Political commentator Neerja Chowdhury said it would be interesting to see the two brothers go to parliament together if Mrs Gandhi wins.

“Personally, I think Priyanka is more knowledgeable. She thinks on her feet and her language is clearer than his,” she said, adding that she will “be watched very closely”.

Getty Images Young women take a selfie with Priyanka Gandhi of the Congress Party during her election campaign on March 27, 2019 in Uttar Pradesh, India. beautiful images

Priyanka Gandhi has been a major draw for her party for decades

Congress leaders and workers in Kerala have expressed joy at the possibility of Mrs. Gandhi becoming MP from Wayanad.

ND Ayyappan, Chairman of the District Party Committee, speak: “It shows that the family will continue its relationship with the people of Wayanad.”

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has criticized dynastic politics following news of Mrs Gandhi’s election debut.

“Congress is not a party but a family business,” said BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla.

But her candidacy announcement drew praise from Annie Raja, a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who ran against Mr. Gandhi in Wayanad in the recent election.

Ms. Raja, who lost the election by a margin of more than 360,000 votes, did not confirm whether she would run against Ms. Gandhi in the by-election.

But she said, “We need more and more women in parliament.”


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