NEW DELHI: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress’ backroom strategist and star campaigner, has been an instinctive politician from an early age, as she frequented the Nehru-Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli in central Uttar Pradesh along with her parents Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi.
In fact, it was Priyanka who introduced Rahul to the locals in Amethi before the latter made his political debut by contesting the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
“Ye mere bhaiya hain (He is my brother),” she would tell villagers.
Priyanka had been noticed for her striking resemblance to grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi and also for her sharp one-liners targeting political rivals.
Besides providing strategic inputs to Sonia, who took over as Congress chief in 1998, Priyanka has been managing the two family bastions since 1999, when her two-week campaign in Rae Bareli fetched lakhs of votes to Sonia. The same year, her road show in Karnataka’s Bellary, in favour of her mother, ensured the defeat of BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj. She also took on uncle Arun Nehru, who had deserted Rajiv over the Bofors scam and was contesting the Rae Bareli seat on a Jan Morcha ticket. She carefully restricted herself to Amethi and Rae Bareli despite several demands from the state unit to take a more active role.
“She kept in touch with senior leaders, obtained feedback on party nominees and provided vital inputs to Rahul on campaign management,” a senior AICC functionary told this newspaper.
Over the past several years, Priyanka has been working behind the scenes, providing valuable inputs to Rahul, first as vice president in 2013 and later as party chief in 2017.
After the drubbing in the 2012 UP assembly polls, where the Congress lost all the five seats under Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency and won just two of the five assembly seats in the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, Priyanka revamped the local party units.