Mocked By BJP For Years, Gandhi Siblings Shine In INDIA's Stellar Show

Gandhi siblings' public interactions countered the image BJP had created for them

Mocked By BJP For Years, Gandhi Siblings Shine In INDIA's Stellar Show

The Gandhi siblings have played a central role in the Congress's comeback this time

New Delhi:

From 'pappu' to 'shehzade', Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been the prime target of BJP's ridicule for years. Jabs at the Gandhi family have been the BJP leader's main line of attack at the main Opposition Congress in every election over the past decade. But as Congress inches towards a 100-seat tally in this Lok Sabha election -- its best show in a decade -- and the INDIA bloc's tally defies all exit polls, the Gandhi siblings have played a central role.

Mr Gandhi virtually launched his campaign with a Bharat Jodo Yatra across the length and breadth of the country. While the actual impact of the yatra in terms of Lok Sabha seats won is a subject of data and debate, there is no doubt that his public interactions on the trail brought him out of television screens to the people and contributed to shattering the perception the BJP had created of him.

Visuals of Mr Gandhi petting puppies, hugging people and chatting with people from every section of the society, from students to truck drivers to mechanics, showed a side of him the country had not seen before.

As for Priyanka Gandhi, many had expected her to contest the polls this time, and questions were raised when she did not. In her response, Ms Gandhi Vadra has said in several interviews that it was a conscious decision. If both she and Rahul contested the election, they would get tied up with campaigning in one constituency, she had said, adding that the plan was to keep her free for rallies. The move clearly seems to have paid off.

As Mr Gandhi travelled across the country to address rallies of the INDIA bloc, Ms Gandhi Vadra also took up the task of leading the Congress's campaign in family strongholds Amethi and Raebareli. Nine hours into the counting, the party seems set for a win in both seats, including Amethi, where Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma has emerged a giant slayer by defeating Union Minister Smriti Irani -- a sweet revenge for Rahul Gandhi's 2019 defeat.

In these seats, Ms Gandhi Vadra was as much the party's face as its brain. From addressing nukkad sabhas to planning the party's moves, she led the campaign in these prestige battles from scratch.

The 2024 election also saw her emergence as an orator who charms the audience and also connects with them. Her counterstrike to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charge that the Congress plans to bring a wealth distribution plan and would take away "mangalsutra" had made national headlines.

"He says the Congress wants to take away your gold, your mangalsutra. The country has been independent for 70 years. The Congress ruled for 55 years. Has anyone robbed you of your gold or your mangalsutra? When the war was on, Indira Gandhi gave her gold to the country. My mother's mangalsutra was sacrificed for this country," she had said.

According to a PTI report, the Congress leader was attending a party meeting in Amethi when she told the audience that there was a woman among them who wanted to educate her daughter, but her father-in-law was against it. So, the woman stitched sari falls to save money and ensured that her daughter became a graduate. She then invited the woman to stage as the audience cheered.

Such interactions smashed the image the BJP had created for the Gandhi siblings and the ruling party's "royal family" jabs lost their sheen.

Also significant is the fact that the Congress this time contested just 328 seats out of 543 -- its lowest ever, leaving the remaining 215 seats for INDIA allies. Known to bargain hard for seats and then failing to convert them into wins, this was a big climbdown by the Mallikarjun Kharge-led party. And the move seems to have paid off.

The Congress may still finish with half the seats as compared to the BJP, but the Gandhi siblings shine in its stellar show. And at the Congress press meet this evening, Mr Gandhi underlined sister Priyanka's contribution in the party's performance.