Indian Congress leader to contest elections

Priyanka Gandhi, sister of main opposition Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, will contest her first elections soon, the party announced.

Mrs. Gandhi is a descendant of the Nehru-Gandhi family, India’s most famous political dynasty.

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

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

His mother, Sonia Gandhi, former president of the Congress Party, is a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

His brother Mr Gandhi won the recent parliamentary elections from the Rae Bareli seats of Wayanad and Uttar Pradesh.

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

The date of the by-election has yet to be announced, but Gandhi says she is “not nervous at all.”

“I am very happy to represent Wayanad and I will not let them feel his (Rahul Gandhi’s) absence,” he said on Monday. “I will work hard and do everything I can to make everyone happy and be a good representative.”

The by-election will mark the end of a decades-long wait by Congress supporters for Gandhi to get involved in electoral politics.

For years, Gandhi was considered the most popular of the Gandhi brothers, with many blaming her brother’s “mediocre leadership” for a series of Congress defeats between 2014 and 2019.

From an early age, people have pointed out Gandhi’s resemblance to his grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

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

Senior leaders have praised his political acumen and people skills.

Gandhi’s official entry into politics came when she was put in charge of the Congress campaign in the eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The Congress performed poorly in that election and in the state assembly elections in 2022, but Gandhi was not blamed. Senior party leaders said the performance was not a reflection of his work and was in line with his expectations.

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

Party leaders say she has been crucial in stabilizing the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh state this year amid rebellion by some of its own lawmakers.

On Monday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized dynastic politics in response to the news of Gandhi’s electoral debut.

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

The announcement of his candidacy, however, received praise from Annie Raja, a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who had contested against Gandhi in Wayanad in the recent elections.

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

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

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