By Kahini Iyer Feb. 11, 2019
The Priyanka Sena is less like the angry, saffron-clad followers we’re used to, and more like the teddy bear your baby cousin offers his sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. Is this the fabled “Priyanka Effect” that we’ve all been hearing so much about?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have his hands full dealing with Didi these days, but Congress President Rahul Gandhi is busy putting on his own sister act. Today, the Grand Old Party held a massive roadshow in Lucknow featuring RaGa, UP West General Secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia, and state chief Raj Babbar. But the showstopper was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the latest Congress celebrity.
In fact, so charming is the younger Gandhi scion, that she has inspired a legion of fans who are only slightly less devoted than Sachin Tendulkar superfan Sudhir Gautam, the guy who paints himself in the colours of the flag at every cricket match. Some 500 Congress workers have come together in Lucknow to form the “Priyanka Sena” — a group dedicated to spreading the gospel of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra through slogans on pink t-shirts.
Turns out, the Priyanka Sena is less like the angry, saffron-clad bhakts we’re used to, and more like the teddy bear your baby cousin offers his sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. These adorable, pot-bellied Congress uncles are uniformed in fetching pink pyjama suits that read “Desh ke samman mein, Priyanka ji maidan mein. Maan bhi denge, samman bhi denge, waqt padega toh jaan bhi denge,” in the front — and that, by the looks of it, probably say “JUICY” somewhere on the behind.
Is this the fabled “Priyanka Effect” that we’ve all been hearing so much about?
Like primary students who have just gotten their PT kits for the school sports day, the Lucknow roadshow marks the first time the Priyanka Sena is trying out their pink uniforms. Even though this new-age, gender-bending Gulabi Gang’s shirts are proudly emblazoned with Priyanka’s face, they have also claimed that she represents women across the country, and that they have chosen to wear pink to show their commitment to women’s rights. The Sena is vocal about tackling misogyny and crimes against women, and both Priyanka and Scindia prefaced today’s roadshow with statements that included women, minorities, and the poor.
It’s typical for the Congress to focus on this kind of populist rhetoric, and it’s no wonder that Priyanka and her Sena are being positioned as saviours of women. Whether this is mere lip service remains to be seen, but either way, there is something both powerful and polarising about seeing hundreds of grown men donning pink outfits to show their solidarity with women, and the Priyanka Sena has been garnering praise and censure from all quarters.
A few wokebaes in particular have, somewhat fatuously, questioned whether designating pink as a girl’s colour is sexist in itself. Members of the Twitterati have pointed out the uncanny resemblance between the brave, pink-clad men of the Priyanka Sena, and tumblers of an antacid medicine. BJP supporters have been inspired to create the unfortunate hashtag, #PappuAurPinkiKiParty. Some commentators have wondered whether Ranveer Singh’s Gully Boy promotional tour, which has seen him push the boundaries of menswear even further into the abyss, is to blame for this mass fashion statement; others insist that the Priyanka Sena are merely preparing their Holi looks in advance.
We may never know how the Priyanka Sena came up with the idea to wear matching pink T-shirt/trouser sets — although the smart money is on pink pant connoisseur, Robert Vadra. But one thing is clear: Even with the breathless coverage of the Congress rally, the stars of this roadshow are not the dimpled RaGa, youthful Scindia, or even media darling Priyanka. The Priyanka Sena has landed itself squarely in the limelight, emerging as the best — or at least, the most entertaining — part of the Lucknow roadshow. No amount of conventional sloganeering can compete with the sheer spectacle of 500 men, clad in pink from head to toe, who are changing our definitions of what a Sena looks like.
The Congress under RaGa’s milquetoast leadership has rarely been able to drum up the fervent support that follows PM Modi’s cult of personality. It looks like the Priyanka Sainiks are finally here to challenge the BJP bhakts and the other, less cuddly Senas that dot the nation. (Shiv, Navnirman, and Karni, we’re looking at you.) Is this the fabled “Priyanka Effect” that we’ve all been hearing so much about? And more importantly, will we ever witness a tense pre-election dance-off between the Priyanka Sena and a rival group wearing “NaMo Again” shirts? This election year, we can only dare to dream.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.