Gandhi siblings: The two together

While Rahul has fought from the front during polls, Priyanka has largely been in the shadows. When it came to standing side by side with her brother or matching his step, she willingly followed him. BY KUMKUM CHADHA

“You kept standing, no matter what they said and did to you…you never backed down whatever the odds, never stopped believing however much they doubted your conviction, you never stopped fighting for the truth despite the overwhelming propaganda of lies they spread, and you never allowed anger and hatred to overcome you, even when they gifted it to you every day. You fought with love, truth and kindness in your heart. Those who could not see you, see you now, but some of us have always seen and known you to be the bravest of all. @RahulGandhi, I am proud to be your sister,” she said.

No guesses for this: it is crystal clear that it is none other than Priyanka Gandhi professing both her affection and admiration for her brother, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi. 

That coupled with a tight hug that Rahul Gandhi gave her sister while announcing her decision to contest the by poll from Wayanad in the south and the visible bonding said it all: they were both for each other and neither politics nor anything else could create fissures between them. 

While Rahul has fought from the front, Priyanka has largely been in the shadows so to speak. This is not to say that she did not campaign in the recently concluded elections: she did and that too quite aggressively but when it came to standing side by side with her brother or matching his step she deliberately and willingly followed him. Even in Congress meetings and a press conference when she could have shared the stage she did not, making it known that if anyone can or should occupy centre-stage it would be none other than her brother: at least in the Congress scheme of things. 

For record,  Priyanka Gandhi will contest the Wayanad bypoll: a seat which her brother Rahul Gandhi will vacate given that he has contested both from Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad in Kerala. 

Wayanad is a newer addition to the election map. It was carved out from Malappuram and Kozhikkode during the delimitation exercise of 2008 and has been won by the Congress since.

When Rahul chose Wayanad it was a decision that was seen as a bid to choose a “safe seat”. 

In 2019, Rahul had contested from two places: Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad. He lost Amethi but won Wayanad which was considered a Congress bastion. 

 Fielding Priyanka from Waynand is a strategic, emotional and politically sane decision: strategic because it keeps the Gandhi connect intact; politically it makes sense because Priyanka is a strong candidate and therefore has little chance of being vanquished, particularly when the Opposition has fared remarkably well in the recent elections. 

More importantly, it takes away the feeling of the Wayanad electorate feeling betrayed. Had Rahul fielded any other candidate, the people in the constituency would have felt that he had “ditched” them for Uttar Pradesh: a feeling that may have cut across the constituency, the state and perhaps other parts of the region. But Priyanka contesting would eliminate all such apprehensions. 

In fact, this being her debut election and her choosing Wayanad would only add to the heft, importance and significance that the constituency holds for the Congress in general and Gandhis in particular. 

That apart, Priyanka’s debut from Wayanad is likely to further boost the Party’s presence in the region. With Rahul and Priyanka in the two key seats, the message that will go is that the Gandhi family is represented in both the north and south, thus asserting that the Congress is strengthening its presence across the country. 

But most important is the brother and sister bonding that the decision reflects. In fact, the images of the hug, immediately after Priyanka’s Wayanad decision is enough evidence of their closeness. 

But back to Priyanka Gandhi, the sister and the politician. The last Priyanka, perhaps is when compared to her brother. 

But then she is not one who would ever overshadow him. If recent images are anything to go by, whenever the two were together, Priyanka always remained a step behind. In this context in the press conference that Rahul Gandhi addressed shortly after the results, far from sharing the stage with her brother, Priyanka remained in the background. In fact Rahul went that extra mile to speak about yeh jo meri behan jo wahan khari hai…directing attention towards her. Even during the first post poll meeting of the I.N.D.I.A. alliance, while Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were flanked with Party President Mallikarjun Kharge, Priyanka  sat along with other members as one of the many, rather than being a first among  equals.

But then this is the DNA of Rajiv Gandhi’s family: they are all reluctant politicians. 

Rajiv Gandhi himself stayed away from the limelight till circumstances pushed him into politics; Sonia Gandhi was averse to not only her husband  joining politics, but she herself stayed away for seven years after his tragic death; their children, both Rahul and Priyanka, though in the thick of things, don’t seem to be power hungry. Like his father, Rahul would rather be out of politics leading a normal life than handling politics unless of course he has to. Therefore it would not be incorrect to say that unless pushed at least the three Gandhis, namely Rajiv, Sonia and Rahul, would rather stay away from politics. 

However when it comes to Priyanka Gandhi, opinion is divided because many see in her flashes of her grandmother, Indira Gandhi, and conclude that she is a natural politician. Of course, how she fares only Time will tell but as of now the stage is set for things to roll out.

For starters, there is heft in the entire family being in Parliament: Sonia Gandhi in Rajya Sabha and her two children in Lok Sabha respectively: the brother-sister team, backed by good numbers in the Opposition, appear strong enough to take on the Modi government. 

The team also spells commitment to serve their constituencies less individually and more as a team. 

Therefore when Priyanka told the electorate in Wayanad that the constituency will be represented not by one but two MPs, namely Rahul and her, it touched a chord. Add to that, Rahul Gandhi’s assurance that he would be a “frequent visitor” to Wayanad to dispel all doubts that he has ditched Wayanad for Rae Bairelly.  Sum total: Interesting times ahead because a rejuvenated Opposition, Rahul at the helm and both Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka set to make their debut in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively are enough to give the Modi government sleepless nights.