India Election 2024: What you need to know about Rahul Gandhi

  • Published
Related Topics

A quick guide to Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi is not just the leader of India’s main opposition party, Congress, but a member of its most famous political dynasty.

Here is everything you need to know as he goes up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in the election.

He is Indian political royalty

Mr Gandhi has not been able to win a general election for his party. He has never been a minister. Yet, he is the opposition’s most prominent face, largely because of his political background.

His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister of independent India. His grandmother and father were Indian prime ministers too. Both were murdered, seven years apart.

The family's Congress party has ruled India for more than five decades. Its dominance only ended in 2014 after a crushing defeat to the BJP. Mr Modi often accuses Mr Gandhi of dynastic politics, referring to him as a "spoilt prince".

No one thought he would go into politics

Rahul Gandhi went to the finest schools, studied in the US and worked in London before returning to India in 2002. He was always seen as a reserved man who wasn’t interested in politics. Instead, it was his sister Priyanka who many believed would take on the family business.

Surprising some, in 2004 he ran as an MP for the constituency of Amethi in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He won, and entered the lower house of India’s parliament, called the Lok Sabha.

He became the target of trolls

Mr Gandhi appealed to the wider base of the party and was seen as the leader of Congress by 2014. He formally became the president of the party in 2017.

This meant when the party suffered its worst defeat ever in 2014, winning just 44 of India's 543 seats, he became a target for the BJP’s mockery.

Being called names like "pappu" or simpleton continued to haunt him. Experts suggested his communication skills and frequent absences from the parliament made him look like a non-serious leader.

A series of losses led to him stepping down

If the 2014 election was bad, 2019 was not that much better: this time, Congress won 52 seats. Mr Gandhi took personal responsibility for the defeat and quit as leader.

He also lost his own seat in his family constituency of Amethi, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. However, Indian law allows candidates to contest two places in one election, so he stayed an MP after winning a seat in the southern state of Kerala.

He took a back seat – but stayed in politics

Mr Gandhi may not officially be the leader of Congress anymore, but he has still been active this election. As well as standing in Wayanad in Kerala, he has given fiery speeches at rallies, participated in road shows and held meetings with party workers and supporters.

He's also been travelling to other countries, delivering lectures at prestigious universities and holding tours to reach Indian communities around the world.

The man dubbed a ‘spoilt prince’ almost went to prison

Last year, Mr Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison after he linked the prime minister’s surname with that of two businessmen also called Modi who are wanted by India’s authorities.

Mr Gandhi claims the charges against him are politically motivated and were carefully planned before the general elections, which the government denies. For now, the Supreme Court has stayed his conviction.

Produced by Text Formats. Image Credits: Getty Images/Reuters