Indian election: Gandhi sibling charms but may struggle to win vote, Latest World News - The New Paper

Indian election: Gandhi sibling charms but may struggle to win vote

This article is more than 12 months old

AYODHYA, INDIA: Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra became the latest member of India's storied Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to enter politics in January, but the boost she brings the opposition campaign may not turn the tide against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, polls show.

After years of speculation, the charismatic Mrs Vadra joined Indian National Congress to help its leader, her brother Rahul, in the general election that begins next week, pitching the party and regional groups against Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist-led alliance.

Congress hopes the fourth-generation siblings of a dynasty that ruled India for decades after independence from Britain in 1947 and is still revered by many will help energise its ranks and counter Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the run-up to the election that starts on Thursday, Mrs Vadra, 47, has spent hours campaigning in cars, trucks and even a boat, to woo voters in northern Uttar Pradesh.

"There is support for Congress because of Priyanka," said Mr Mahesh Gupta, a shopkeeper in the temple town of Ayodhya, where she visited a shrine in late March.

Even so, in the face of the formidable political machine of the BJP, which also rules the state, Congress may be unable to capitalise on her appeal, pollsters and some party leaders said.

"Many in Congress say the Priyanka play is more about building up the party for 2022 assembly elections and beyond," Mr Milan Vaishnav, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said, referring to state elections in Uttar Pradesh where Ayodhya is located.

A poll, by the Hindu CSDS-Lokniti, showed 43 per cent of respondents wanted Mr Modi as the next prime minister, with 24 per cent for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. - REUTERS