All eyes have been on Rahul Gandhi, the somewhat reluctant warrior who’s leading the campaign for the governing Indian National Congress (INC / Congress) that hopes to win a third consecutive term in power in this spring’s parliamentary elections.
But it’s his sister, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, who is getting all the buzz recently with word that Priyanka will step out of the shadows to take a fuller role in the election campaign this year, mostly as an advisor and manager for Rahul’s campaign, but also taking an increasingly visible role as well.
As she steps closer to the heart of Congress’s campaign, it will be the third major Gandhi family member to figure prominently in the 2013 elections. Their Italian-born mother, Sonia Gandhi, has been Congress’s party leader since 1998, though when Congress won the 2004 national elections, Sonia declined to become prime minister, instead handing the top job to Manmohan Singh, who will step down this spring after a decade in office.
Rahul is not technically the Congress’s prime ministerial candidate in 2013, but his role leading the campaign means that it’s more likely than not that he’ll become India’s next prime minister if the INC wins this spring.
That outcome seems increasingly less certain. The latest CNN-IBN-Lokniti-CSDS poll shows that Congress and its allies, which together comprise the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will win between 107 and 127 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), the lower house of the Indian parliament — a loss of over 100 seats. Instead, the more conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or भारतीय जनता पार्टी) would win, together with its own allies that form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), between 211 and 231 seats, under the leadership of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has waged an aggressive campaign against Congress, on the basis that he can bring Gujarat’s high-growth economic approach to the rest of India. Modi, who is 20 years older than Rahul, routinely refers to his opponent as shehzada, or ‘prince,’ and there’s speculation that Congress’s leadership decided not to anoint Rahul as its official prime ministerial candidate to avoid a presidential-style showdown between the two leaders that Modi would almost certainly win, despite his flaws.
Priyanka has campaigned before on behalf of her mother and broher in their constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. But neither she nor her brother, Rahul, have faced the rigors of leading a national campaign in the world’s largest democracy — especially against perhaps the most talented BJP politician in over a decade. Modi’s not without flaws, though, especially given doubts over his role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
But there’s no disputing that Modi, if the elections were held today, has enough momentum to win.
So who is Priyanka and how can she help turn things around for Congress? Continue reading Is Priyanka Vadra the secret Gandhi family weapon for Congress?