Priyanka Gandhi playing key role in brother's campaign

Priyanka Gandhi playing key role in brother's campaign
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (left) and his sister Priyanka Gandhi meeting a group of people with disabilities in New Delhi. While Mr Gandhi is the face of the Congress campaign, his sister is known for her spontaneity and ability to connect with people.

WHEN Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi spoke to a group of business leaders in Delhi three months ago, he turned to his younger sister Priyanka to help him craft his speech.

"Our vision for India is of a country whose economy would be the largest in the world, second to none," said Mr Gandhi, 43, in his speech, even as he acknowledged growth had slowed.

His sister is a 42-year-old psychology graduate, who is often compared to their grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi. At least one leader has described the mother of two as Mr Gandhi's chief aide.

While he is the face of the Congress campaign, the younger Gandhi, known for her spontaneity and ability to connect with people, works behind the scenes.

She has been helping her brother with his speeches, takes calls on the advertisement campaign, provides input on his media plan and monitors the campaign in the family constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli, among others, according to those in the know.

When Mr Gandhi gave a full-length television interview last month - his first since joining politics in 2004 - Ms Gandhi was present during the interview.

Although Mr Gandhi fumbled for answers during the interview, she was said to be in favour of him doing the interview with Mr Arnab Goswami, who is known for his aggressive interview style.

The Congress party, which won the last two general elections, faces an uphill task at the coming polls following corruption scandals, a slowing economy and high inflation.

Opinion polls show that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, 63, is ahead of Mr Gandhi. Mr Modi is feted for transforming Gujarat into an economic powerhouse.

Mr Gandhi, who has been slowly taking on responsibilities from his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, has stepped up his campaign. He has addressed multiple rallies, starred in television advertisements urging people to vote Congress and initiated changes within the organisation, such as holding United States-style primaries to choose candidates in a handful of constituencies.

His sister, who has in the past largely spent time with her two children and businessman husband Robert Vadra, 44, is playing a supportive role, even as Indian politics is dotted with instances of sibling rivalry. In the DMK, for instance, the Tamil Nadu party leader M. Karunanidhi's sons have been in a power struggle.

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