Wednesday, March 29, 2023
HomeOpinionIs Priyanka Gandhi the greatest victim of patriarchy in Indian politics?

Is Priyanka Gandhi the greatest victim of patriarchy in Indian politics?

Text Size:

Priyanka would have done a better job of taking on Modi-Shah than Rahul Gandhi.

It came as a surprise when the Congress party announced Rahul Gandhi’s entry into politics in 2004.

“It is a baffling decision. The general impression was that Priyanka was more articulate, forceful and more charismatic. I am not sure anyone knows what the real story is. Perhaps it is more personal or family related,” academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta told the BBC.

Fourteen years later, the less articulate, peripatetic and less charismatic sibling, Rahul, has formally become the head of the party and has openly declared his aspiration to be India’s prime minister.

Except that in these 14 years, there is no significant achievement of Rahul. 

He has tried to revive the party’s youth wing, the Congress organisation in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, has tried to give the party an ideological coherence – and he has failed.

He has failed to defeat the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a single significant election. Not that he has any proven track record of success as an administrator – or as anything.

Not even his party’s supporters can name a single achievement of Rahul in his 14 years in politics. 

Also read: Can Rahul Gandhi put 292 dead cats on the table?

History has shown there can be no Congress party without the glue of the Gandhi family, just as the BJP would collapse without the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, its mother ship. So, a Gandhi has to be the party president. 

It is not as if the Congress party has to be stuck with Rahul Gandhi. It has another option it should at least have tried by now: Priyanka Gandhi. 

For years, we were told that Priyanka is staying away from politics because she’s raising her children. The children are all grown up now. The line we are now given is that she’ll be in politics when she wants to. At one point she told reporters, “It could be next week”, and laughed. 

Sons above daughters

We don’t know what happens at the dinner table in the Gandhi household, but it is obvious as daylight that she’s the greatest victim of patriarchy in Indian politics. 

There are others like her. Kanimozhi in the DMK has been sidelined for M.K. Stalin as the heir apparent. In Lalu Yadav’s RJD, Tejashwi Yadav has been chosen by his father over his sister Misa Bharti.

From her few public appearances, Priyanka appears to be a smarter politician than Rahul.  She’s a better speaker, especially in Hindi, more rooted, more natural. She reminds people of Indira Gandhi. Nobody says Rahul reminds them of even his father Rajiv. Priyanka appears to be more aggressive, more political. 

Also read: Congress makes 2019 plan with some help from Priyanka, pins hope on allies and millennials

As the Congress party fell to a historic low of 44 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, one would have thought it was time for Priyanka to save the sinking ship. The party’s continued failures since 2014 have shown the ship is still sinking, slowly but steadily. 

There are still no signs of a front-facing role for Priyanka. The reason is not hard to imagine. If Priyanka becomes a public face of the Congress party, she will overshadow her brother so quickly and surely that there won’t be a single party worker left to say ‘Rahul Gandhi ki jai’. 

Priyanka has clearly been relegated to a role behind the stage to give her brother Rahul endless time to succeed. Everyone in the party, including Priyanka herself, keeps saying the decision is hers to make, the timing hers to choose, as if Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and their respective coteries don’t weigh in on such questions.

If there’s anything we know about Italian mothers, it is that they love their sons just like Indian mothers. 

Her husband’s wife

In a fair world, Priyanka would have been the face of the party to take on Modi. She has often been described as the party’s ‘brahmastra’. Given that Modi-Shah have a declared intention to create a Congress-mukt Bharat, and are succeeding at it, you’d think this is the time when the ‘brahmastra’ would be used. But Sonia’s ‘putra-moh’, love for the male child, may be coming in the way of using the ‘brahmastra’.

Also read: Unmaking the Modi mythology bit by bit is Rahul Gandhi’s strategy for 2019

Priyanka has for some years been playing the role of a backroom troubleshooter, cleaning up the mess. Her brother goes to Singapore for a public event, and she is tasked with organising the AICC plenary session. Rahul takes months to form a new Congress Working Committee, Priyanka picks up the phone to soothe the leaders left out. The hard work of running an election war-room for 2019 is likely to be done by Priyanka.  

She would have been particularly effective against Modi’s macho image, offering the contrast of a strong woman, as opposed to Rahul who’s seen as a man not in control of things. A hug and a wink notwithstanding, Rahul is far from being counted as a challenge to Brand Modi.

There’s of course the Robert Vadra objection to Priyanka. Vadra, accused of corruption, is a businessman from Moradabad, a bratty gym rat, and is seen as a liability for his wife’s public image. Judging a woman by her husband is par for the course in a patriarchal society where a brother gets to wear the crown no matter how much he fails.

When historians look back at our times, they will wonder if Priyanka was the face that could have taken on Modi, but wasn’t allowed to because it’s boys first.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Keeping in mind that current situation as status quo, and if willing, she should play the roll of talking to other parties for alliances. She has the acumen.

  2. We will definitely respect the decision taken byPriyanka ji.She is the best judge to decide for herself when she should enter into active politics,no one has any right to infringe on her.I feel she is always doing her bit every second and has thorough knowledge of what is going to happen tomorrow in the Indian polity.
    When she takes active stand and full fledged entry into politics, no force,no wave of any leader,any party stops her from getting INC into power.
    She is conglomerate of all leaders from Gandhi family put together.
    Let us wait for her turn to impact.

    Chindam Srinivas Rao

  3. Nicely written. No doubt, Rahul Gandhi President of Congress Party has beening putting lot of efforts to enhance the image of Congress Party by way of making plethora of efforts at rural, towns and metro levels, but his impact to occupy special place in the hearts of millions of voters is lacking. There may be so many reasons mentioned elsewhere. If the Congress is really interested to combat effectively with alliance of other political parties for the forcoming elections to be held during 2019, then Priyanka Gandhi, as grand daughter of strong and iron lady, former PM Indira Gandhi be launched as a Prime Minister Candidate. She is having innate qualities boldness, dynamic and manageable and know what to speak at what time. But she should be sincerely backed by sincere, dedicated, matured and tainted free political congress leaders.

  4. Before making assumptions did anyone bother checking with Priyanka Gandhi if she wants to be in politics or not.
    The article was in very poor taste and made a whole bunch of assumptions even to the extend of raising Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin motherhood behaviour, which was simply uncalled for. One might as well use that assumption and call Mr Vij a porky journalist just coz his mother fed him on rice and nothing else.
    It’s very easy to pass judgement on others from the safe drawing rooms of Delhi.
    If Priyanka Gandhi comes in politics that will be good for country but before making any assumption you need to hear her side of story .. I remember distinctly an interview she gave to Barkha Dutt where she said she spent a long time thinking and concluded politics is not for her. She may choose to come but that is the conclusion she made.
    We should respect that ….

  5. What a shit article. She has been consistent in her stand to not enter politics as long as she has young kids to take care of for a very long time. Why this assumption that this is because of patriarchy and not her own agency. This article is just so lazy and a waste of space.

  6. Very convincing. But I don’t think there are any takers of this suggestion in the Congress. Sychophancy has destroyed a huge party and same will happen to BJP in the long run, if andh bhagti continues.

  7. It’s very true that had Priyanka led the Congress, the BJP would have been in a great deal of trouble. One surely hopes that she comes out of her cocoon and leads the party. Otherwise, we will most likely have to suffer another 5 years with Modi at the helm.

  8. It is her choice as she has an young family to take care and protect. When would she get into politics is her own individual and personal decision. Talking of patriarchy, if one looks carefully one would understand that it is too distant from that family.

  9. Very rightly pointed out… In actually Madam Sonia Gandhi not able to analyse what is right for party benefit, sorry for saying she always bet on Rahul Gandhi, who is really missing a blend of a Leader… initially days only he spoiled his image, even when Congress – UPA was rulling people was not at all impress by this gentleman, in actually he is missing the zeal and real current of a leader and his presense of mind… At the same time, Congress for the personal reasons never given right status to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra… we never know what is there internal understand but loss of Congress party and its followers, day by day, party is going out of routs… BJP has a strong leader with good communication and commanding skills… In my real point of view Rahul Gandhi can be AICC President, but public will never accept him as Prime Minister… by this act public is looking at N Modi ji again as a PM bcoz so comparisions or competitiveness they feel in these both, of course if Priyanka G Vadra Comes in active Politics with her internal commitment hopefully she can do justification to the committed Politician from INC… Whatever may be the personal reason, Country and the betterment of its citizen is the first duty of the family members of the family which gives a good number of smart and valuable politician and Prime Minsters to this country… I would really suggest the group of leaders from INC who still wish to bank upon Rahul Gandhi, just check the past… value to needs and look forward for a bright future, take a smart and result oriented decision for the benefit of Congress and its followers…

    • Rakesh Singh I think you are missing the point mentioned in heading of this article. Why blame Indian politics as pro patriarchial. It was Italian conservative catholic mindset in the Mind of Madam Sonia Gandhi who wanted some how Rahul to occupy the chair. She planned and executed everything accordingly for almost 2 decades since the time of PV Narsimha Rao. But after all you need some substance. And Rahul iad no mettle. Apparent improvement off late is due to some people who are writing for him and getting practiced. He reads those chits. And people clap. There is no spontaneity.
      Anyway Demise of congress is sad story for Indian politics as there is no credible opposition.

Comments are closed.