Priyanka Gandhi to Make Electoral Debut in Wayanad

Priyanka Gandhi, sister of India’s main opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, is set to contest her first election, ending decades of anticipation by her supporters. As a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, India’s most famous political dynasty, her entry into the electoral arena will be closely watched.

The 52-year-old will run for the Wayanad seat in the southern state of Kerala after her brother decided to relinquish it. A win for Ms. Gandhi would result in all three Gandhi family members being present in the Indian parliament. Her mother, Sonia Gandhi, a former president of the Congress party, is currently an MP in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

Rahul Gandhi recently won parliamentary elections from both Wayanad and Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli seats. Under Indian law, he can only retain one parliamentary seat and has chosen to keep Rae Bareli. On Monday, he expressed gratitude to the people of Wayanad for their “love, affection, and support.”

While the date for the by-election has yet to be announced, Ms. Gandhi is confident. “I am very happy to be able to represent Wayanad and I will not let them feel his [Rahul Gandhi’s] absence,” she stated. “I will work hard and I will try my best to make everyone happy and be a good representative.”

This by-election marks the end of a long wait by Congress supporters for Ms. Gandhi’s active involvement in electoral politics.

Getty Images Ex-Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on the right with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the centre and Rahul Gandhi on the left at a public meeting on 17 May 2024 in Rae Bareli
A win for Ms Gandhi (standing between her brother and mother) would mean the presence of all three Gandhi family members in the Indian parliament


For years, Priyanka Gandhi has been considered the more popular of the Gandhi siblings, with many attributing the Congress party’s defeats from 2014 to 2019 to the “lacklustre leadership” of her brother, Rahul Gandhi.

Ms. Gandhi’s resemblance to her grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, has been noted from an early age. She actively participated in her mother’s election campaigns from the late 1990s and later supported her brother when he entered politics in 2004. Senior leaders have lauded her political acumen and her ability to connect with people.

Her official entry into politics occurred when she was appointed to oversee the Congress campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2019 general election. Although the Congress performed poorly in that election and the 2022 state assembly polls, Ms. Gandhi was not blamed. Senior party leaders said the results were in line with their expectations and not reflective of her efforts.

Since her appointment as Congress’ general secretary in 2019, Ms. Gandhi has managed the party’s campaigns in several state elections. Party leaders credit her with stabilizing the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh this year amid internal rebellion. She also played a pivotal role in the Congress’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the Gandhi family strongholds of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

“She held the fort for Rahul, allowing him to campaign across the country,” Mr. Ansari noted.

Political commentator Neerja Chowdhury remarked that it would be interesting to see the siblings in parliament together if Ms. Gandhi wins. “Personally, I think Priyanka is savvier of the two. She thinks on her feet, and her language is clearer than his,” she said, adding that she will be “watched very closely.”

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