In an unprecedented move, India’s main opposition Congress party has given 40 percent of its tickets to female candidates for the ongoing assembly elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, also the country’s most populous with more than 200 million residents.
The driving force behind the Congress move is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the party’s current president, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi. Priyanka is also the younger sister of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Despite belonging to India’s most prominent political family, the 50-year-old – married to businessman Robert Vadra and mother of two children – is a late entrant to active politics and had so far confined herself to campaigning for her mother and brother during the parliamentary elections.
That changed in 2019 when she was given the charge to turn Congress fortunes around in politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh, a state the party ruled for decades before the rise of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and caste-based regional parties in the 1990s.