Priyanka Gandhi enters Indian politics

Party workers have long wanted Ms Priyanka Gandhi (above), who resembles Mrs Indira Gandhi, to have an official position.
Party workers have long wanted Ms Priyanka Gandhi (above), who resembles Mrs Indira Gandhi, to have an official position.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brother Rahul makes her general secretary of key committee in Congress party

NEW DELHI • Ms Priyanka Gandhi, a scion of India's most prominent political family, has formally entered politics ahead of a general election due in May, Indian media reported yesterday.

Mr Rahul Gandhi, her brother and president of India's main opposition Indian National Congress party, appointed her general secretary in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) - the party's central decision-making assembly - for the eastern part of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

"Honourable Congress president has appointed Shrimati Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as AICC general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East," the party said in a statement signed by general secretary Ashok Gehlot, as quoted by The Statesman.

"She will be taking charge with effect from the first week of February 2019," the party said.

"I am very pleased personally that my sister, who is very capable, will work with me," Mr Gandhi, 48, told reporters.

Ms Gandhi is from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has given India three prime ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.

Her father, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, also served as prime minister, and her grandmother, Mrs Indira Gandhi, was the first female prime minister of the country.

 
 
 
 

Congress workers have long been demanding that Ms Priyanka Gandhi, 46, who resembles the charismatic Indira Gandhi, should take up an official position in the party. Ms Gandhi has always had a say in strategising electoral campaigns and preparing the candidate list for the Congress, but did not previously have a formal position in Congress.

"The responsibility given to Priyanka-ji is very important. This will not only have an effect on eastern Uttar Pradesh but also other regions," senior Congress leader Motilal Vohra said, as reported by The Statesman newspaper, using a term of respect for Ms Gandhi.

Businessman Robert Vadra, Ms Gandhi's husband, took to Facebook to congratulate her.

"Congratulations P… always by your side in every phase of your life. Give it your best," Mr Vadra said in the post.

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties have often criticised the Congress party for what they term "dynastic politics", DPA reported yesterday.

While Ms Gandhi will oversee the Congress party's efforts in Uttar Pradesh East, Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia - a Member of Parliament representing the Guna constituency in the state of Madhya Pradesh - was given charge of the western part of Uttar Pradesh state.

Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of lawmakers in the country to Parliament - 80 - and often plays a critical role in deciding who forms the government.

Uttar Pradesh East is also home to the holy city of Varanasi, which forms part of the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Though the state was once a stronghold, the Congress party has performed poorly there in recent times, winning only two seats in the 2014 general election.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Priyanka Gandhi enters Indian politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe