The 'other' Gandhi makes a comeback in new India Cabinet

Indian politician and activist Maneka Gandhi attends a promotional event for the forthcoming Hindi film, It's Entertainment! in Mumbai on May 19, 2014. Mrs Gandhi returned to political power on Monday when she was sworn in as a member of India's new
Indian politician and activist Maneka Gandhi attends a promotional event for the forthcoming Hindi film, It's Entertainment! in Mumbai on May 19, 2014. Mrs Gandhi returned to political power on Monday when she was sworn in as a member of India's new right-wing government. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP  

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Maneka Gandhi, an estranged member of the famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, returned to political power on Monday when she was sworn in as a member of India's new right-wing government.

Gandhi, who took the oath with the rest of the 46-member Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cabinet, is famously known as the "other daughter-in-law" who lost out in the fight for the Nehru-Gandhi political throne.

The 57-year-old, expected to be women's development minister in a second stint in a Hindu nationalist BJP cabinet, is one of the two daughters-in-law of late Congress premier Indira Gandhi.

The Nehru-Gandhis are associated with the left-wing and secular Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics since independence but was routed in the elections that brought the BJP back to power.

Maneka fell badly foul of her mother-in-law Indira after her husband Sanjay died in a 1980 airplane stunt.

After Sanjay's death, Indira's older son Rajiv entered politics at his mother's behest and this branch of the family has dominated since, while Maneka and her son Varun joined the BJP.

The current president of Congress is Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of Rajiv, while her son Rahul led the disastrous party campaign for this year's polls.

Maneka and her sister-in-law Sonia once lived under the same roof while Indira was prime minister "but hated each other like poison", the late Indian writer Khushwant Singh, a family friend, told AFP in 2005.

Delivering a caustic verdict on the fading fortunes of Congress, animal rights campaigner Maneka said in March that the "party has died from eating too much of the people's money".

The ill-feeling has spilled over to the next generation.

Priyanka Gandhi, Sonia's younger daughter, has said her cousin Varun's BJP membership goes against every principle the Nehru-Gandhi family "lived and died for".