A Real Indira Gandhi Moment: Priyanka Gandhi snakes her way through Rae Bareli electorate

She clearly shares a love for wildlife with her late grandmother. But Priyanka Gandhi must do more to take forward Mrs Indira Gandhi's legacy on this.

 |  2-minute read |   03-05-2019
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As the election campaign reaches a frenzying midpoint, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — who is campaigning in eastern Uttar Pradesh — was seen interacting with a group of snake charmers in Raebareli.

The video of her interaction — obviously going viral on social media — shows Ms Gandhi seated on a chair, looking down at the snakes coiled in boxes. The snake charmers, squatting on the ground, were heard complaining to her about their issues.

Ms Gandhi is then seen picking up a cobra from the charmer’s basket and petting it.

"It won't do anything. Why are you afraid?" Ms Gandhi is seen telling a man standing behind her.

Actually, the handloom saris and trademark wavy hairstyle aside, that seemed like the moment when Priyanka Gandhi was truly channelling her late grandmother’s spirit — Mrs Indira Gandhi is known as the saviour of Indian wildlife. She was a visionary when it came to environmental issues, and laid the foundation of the legal and policy framework that protects India’s forests and wild creatures till date. 

It would not be an exaggeration to say that when Mrs Gandhi came to power in 1966, the social and political situation had left India's wildlife looking doomed. However, she was known to have a keen interest in the environment and animals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, mammals. Senior Mrs Gandhi was a member of the Delhi Bird Club as a teenager — and it was due to her efforts as the Prime Minister that the Wildlife Protection Act was enforced in 1972. 

However, junior Ms Gandhi does need to be reminded that snake charming is a banned activity under the same Wildlife Protection Act that her grandmother championed for.

The cobra she was seen fearlessly petting is listed under the endangered species of wildlife as per the Wildlife Act under Schedule I — the highest level of protection is accorded to it.

Further, the Election Commission (EC), in its Model Code of Conduct manual, imposed a blanket ban on the use or live demonstrations of all animals, birds or reptiles of any type while canvassing for votes by political parties or their candidates.

While Priyanka’s petting might not be directly construed as using the cobra for campaigning, it behoves her to advise her electorate accordingly and display the compassion that her grandmother stood for. We are sure senior Mrs Gandhi — had she been alive today — would have first ensured the safe return of the cobra to its wild habitat. 

After all, for Priyanka, it is in main the question of preserving legacies now. And this one is a happy one. 

Also read: Indira Gandhi's lesser-known legacy: How Iron Lady saved India's wildlife

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