SHES Sonias chief confidante and advisor. The ultimate backroom girl, she vets speeches, gathers feed-back and provides moral support. Still hiding coyly in the wings, Priyanka Vadra nee Gandhi, 28, is the most talked about figure in Congress circles.
Inevitable, in a party which relies heavily on the dynasty but is beginning to wonder whether Sonia can pull off an electoral coup. Party strategists have even toyed with the idea of her contesting from Uttar Pradesh to blunt the campaign against Sonias foreign origins. A suggestion that she take on Atal Behari Vajpayee in Lucknow has been put to 10, Janpath. But Vajpayees stature and her inexperience make it a patently unsafe seat. That her first political foray should end in defeat wont enthuse the high command.
The Gandhi siblings are known to take great interest in politics. Their only caveat when their mother took the plunge into active politics was the security risk. Whether hey reinterested enough to contest isnt known, but Sonia believed to have made it clear that its entirely their decision. Theyre expected to campaign for the part y. Rahul Gandhi, 30, works abroad and has taken leave to be by his mothers side during the crucial election. Hes accompanied her on campaign tours and was a constant companion after the split in the party which led to her (shortlived) resignation as Congress president. A leggy Colombian girlfriend could prove a handicap. Hes said to be rather more aggressive and less articulate than his kid sister.
Of the two, Priyanka is believed to be the natural heir to her great-grandfathers political legacy. Charismatic in a way that invites immediate comparison with Indira Gandhi, shes a crowd-pleaser. More to the point, says a Congress leader, she has the common touch. Following a fire which damaged an institution run by the Missionaries of Charity, she rushed to see if the inmates were all right. Moving rather more freely amidst the capitals glitterati and party circuit, shes her mothers primary channel for feedback.