On Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sparked a discussion on Twitter – and not just for the fact that she had taken to the podium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to address her first political rally since theCongress party appointed her its general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East on February 23. Some comments revolved around her Twitter display picture.
When Gandhi joined the social media platform on February 11, her picture showed her in a maroon sari with a long-sleeved blouse. On Wednesday, she changed it to one that showed her in jeans and a matching blue shirt.
To some, this image seemed like a retort to a jibe she had faced from from Bharatiya Janata Party leader Harish Dwivedi shortly after her appointment. “Everyone knows Priyanka Gandhi wears jeans when she is in Delhi but wears saris when she visits Congress bastions,” said Dwivedi, the MP from Basti on February 9.
That wasn’t the only sexist remark thrown at her. On January 25, Vinod Narayan Jha, a BJP minister from Bihar, earned himself a reprimand from the National Commission for Women, when he said that Gandhi was “very beautiful, but other than that she holds no political achievement”.
Her new image immediately drew the attention of her detractors.
Some made references to the corruption allegations around her husband, Robert Vadra.
The rude remarks were not surprising. For India’s women politicians, like women in so many other sectors, sexism is a daily battle – and many must deal with rude comments about their appearances. In the run-up to the Rajasthan assembly elections in December, for instance, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav said that Vasundhara Raje, who was then chief minister of Rajasthan. Yadav “should be given some rest as she is very tired”. He added that “she has become fat, earlier, she used to be thin”.
In 2017, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party had made a similarly distaste remark about Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati. “How could we have given space to her [Mayawati]?” he said. “She takes so much space, even her party symbol is that of an elephant.”
But Priyanka Gandhi’s new image wasn’t without its supporters.
One user even suggested that Priyanka Gandhi’s brother, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, should follow her example.