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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK

World: South Asia

Priyanka: Daughter of the dynasty

Bringing in an element of charisma to the campaign

By South Asia Correspondent Mike Wooldridge in Amethi

She insists she is only helping her mother win a seat in the Indian Parliament.

But when the Gandhis were for a long time the first family of Indian politics, it is not as simple as that.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
At each of Priyanka Gandhi's roadside stops in Amethi, among the Congress faithful, euphoria that the Gandhis are back in their midst.

Watch Mike Wooldridge's report on Priyanka Gandhi's campaign in Amethi
In a taste of Priyanka's approach, a widow wants her help. She says she has not been getting a government pension that is due to her.

Is Priyanka the new, young and refreshing face of one of the world's most famous political dynasties? Or is this a kind of political feudalism?

[ image: An old widow seeks her help]
An old widow seeks her help
"No, you see, this whole dynasty business ...everyone has been democratically elected. Some of them have won by the biggest margins ever," she tells the BBC.

"I don't believe in this dynasty thing. I believe I have been brought up in a particular way. I have watched people work for the country, work for others and to that extent I have imbibed certain things from them," she says.

Family borough

Priyanka's father represented these people in parliament until he was assassinated. Congress lost the seat to the BJP in the last election.

[ image: Crowds line up to see Rajiv Gandhi's daughter]
Crowds line up to see Rajiv Gandhi's daughter
Symbolically, both for Rajiv Gandhi's widow and his daughter, there is much at stake here.

Priyanka's most persistent campaign theme is that development projects started in Rajiv Gandhi's time have come to a standstill.

She pledges that they will take off again if her mother is elected.

"She came and spoke about our problems," said one of the people who had come to listen to her.

"Priyanka follows in Rajiv's footsteps. That's why we have a lot of love for her," said another.

Political pull

In a nation where public faith in politicians' promises is low, Priyanka Gandhi has clearly restored an element of charisma to electioneering.

[ image: The 'Priyanka factor' at work]
The 'Priyanka factor' at work
It is being described as the "Priyanka factor" and Congress believes it has been making a difference in the final stages of the campaign.

But what is not yet known is whether this experience will tempt her into a bigger political role of her own.

Speaking to the BBC in between campaign stops, she says politics is not becoming increasingly hard to resist.

"I am very clear in my mind. Politics is not a strong pull, the people are. And I can do things for them without being in politics" she says.

India is not convinced, and the pressures that eventually propelled Sonia Gandhi to the Congress leadership are likely to be felt by Priyanka too.

But that is for the future. This is a party, and a family, now used to being out of power. In its new guise, the pull of the dynasty is on trial once again . . . especially here.

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