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Nirmala Ganapathy
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Asia

Priyanka Gandhi infuses new energy into Congress

The Straits Times | Nirmala Ganapathy | Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of India's ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014.

INDIA - Wearing a yellow handwoven cotton sari, her short curls flecked with flower petals that were showered on her as a welcome, Ms Priyanka Gandhi mixed effortlessly with villagers as she campaigned for her elder brother Rahul, 43, in the family borough of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The 42-year-old mother of two giggled with women in Poore Parwane village, one of two dozen stops last Friday, as she joked that she had not come to ask for their votes.

A little later, Ms Gandhi, with her hands on her hips, struck a serious note. She evoked the family name and memories of her fallen grandmother Indira and father Rajiv. "I have come to listen.

My family members have given their lives for the country. So I have to work for the people who have supported them. I need to complete their work," she said, reminiscing about how as a little girl she used to come to the constituency with her father.

"You just keep giving us your love."

The younger of the famous Gandhi siblings, great-grandchildren of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, comes from the country's most powerful political dynasty, but her life has been punctuated by personal tragedy.

She is always protected in public by dozens of men from the elite Special Protection Group.

Her grandmother was the sitting prime minister when assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard in 1984 when Priyanka was only 12.

She was 19 when a suicide bomber took the life of her father while he was on the campaign trail in the election of 1991 - all that was left at the Tamil Nadu election ground to identify his remains were his shoes.

Her Italian-born mother, Sonia, formally entered politics six years after her husband's assassination to safeguard the Gandhi- Nehru legacy, and subsequently led the party to two decisive victories.

Now her brother and the vice- president of the Congress, Mr Rahul Gandhi, is taking over the reins of the party at a time when its popularity is at its lowest.

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