LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the popular sister of the head of India’s main opposition Congress party, made her political debut on Monday with a roadshow drawing thousands in the most populous state months before a general election due by May.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi pulled a surprise last month by appointing his younger sister a party general secretary. She will also be its face in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament and is currently dominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But a string of BJP defeats in state elections late last year and rising discontent over a weak farm economy and lacklustre jobs growth have weakened Modi’s position, which an increasingly aggressive Congress is looking to capitalise on.
The 47-year-old Priyanka – she is usually referred to by just her first name – bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and is known for her gifts as a speaker able to connect with voters. Congress hopes that the eyeballs she’s able to generate will turn into votes.