Rahul Gandhi vs Smriti Irani in Amethi

RSTV Bureau
File Photo: Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani.

File Photo: Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani.

Polling for the keenly watched contest in Amethi is over. Congress President Rahul Gandhi is seeking a re-election from Amethi.

Union Minister Smriti Irani will face him for the second time in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. In 2014 Congress President Rahul Gandhi won the election against Smriti Irani by a margin of 1.07 lakh votes.

The way my father was dedicated to the welfare of people of Amethi, my brother too is committed, said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during a recent campaign as she tried to strike an emotional chord with the voters.

Sitting MP and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is seeking to defend his turf and win the Amethi seat for the fourth time. His main challenger is Union minister Smriti Irani, who brought down Rahul’s victory margin to just over a lakh in 2014.

Amethi: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves at the supporters during an election campaign roadshow for the Lok Sabha polls, in Amethi constituency, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Amethi: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves at the supporters during an election campaign roadshow for the Lok Sabha polls, in Amethi constituency, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Priyanka’s canvassing for her brother centered on emotion as she went around greeting locals, addressing them as “family members” and recalling the old days when her father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, used to represent Amethi.

Campaigning for the seat ended on Saturday for the May 6 elections.

Charges have been flying thick and fast with the Congress accusing the BJP of trying to bribe voters and the BJP slamming the grand old party for taking the segment for granted.

The BJP, on the other hand, flagged Congress’s dynastic politics as the bane of Amethi and sought to woo locals with development.

Irani also aggressively flagged her rival’s fight from a second segment, Wayanad in Kerala, as a sign of his defeat in Amethi during her campaigning.

To the women of Amethi, Irani has promised sugar at Rs 13 a kg and to voters, she has pledged development calling out the slogan ‘Phir ek baar Modi sarkar’.

Amethi: BJP National President Amit Shah during an election roadshow in support of party's candidate from Amethi seat Smriti Irani for Lok Sabha polls, in Amethi, Saturday, May 3, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Amethi: BJP National President Amit Shah during an election roadshow in support of party’s candidate from Amethi seat Smriti Irani for Lok Sabha polls, in Amethi, Saturday, May 3, 2019. (PTI Photo)

As titans clash in this largely underdeveloped area, some locals see Amethi and the Gandhis as inseparable, while others are willing to shun old loyalties and seek new horizons.

Amethi is still awaiting fruits of development so much so that a cluster of local villages is considering to boycott elections over an old unfulfilled promise of a rail under bridge in the Amethi town.

“We have been demanding a rail under bridge at an unmanned rail crossing for decades. Even in the last election, we had threatened a boycott but Rahul Gandhi told us he will help. Nothing has moved. We feel betrayed,” said Surinder Singh of village Birahimpur, where locals have resolved to boycott the May 6 poll.

According to Mumtaz Khan, an ex-village head of Raydepur, the fight for an under bridge started in 1987 and people are dejected enough to consider a boycott.

“We are a VIP segment, yes but we are fed up now,” he rued as the segment wears a desolate look bereft of finesse that should have been attached with such a seat.

That said, generational loyalty for the Gandhis remains a factor here with some locals indicating that despite lack of development, Rahul Gandhi was likely to be voted back.

For Uma Shankar Pathak, an old timer, “The Nehru family gave this place its identity though there has not been adequate development.”

According to another local Bhola Nath, “For the sake of the Gandhi family’s legacy, people may still vote for Rahul Gandhi here.”

A section of people disagree and feel the competition this year is cut throat and anything can happen.

“It is a very close contest and nothing can be said. This time the Gandhis are campaigning much harder than before and their anxiety is visible,” said Mahesh Jaiswal of Amethi.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and OBC leader Tamradhwaj Sahu, besides Ghulam Nabi Azad and others also campaigned for Rahul.

The BJP also gave a final push to its campaign with Amit Shah holding a roadshow for Smriti on Saturday and Yogi Adityanath holding rallies earlier.

Another local Shiv Kumar said, “Earlier, the Gandhis would only come to file the nomination. This time they are spending much more time in Amethi because they know Smriti Irani is a tough challenger.”

(With inputs from agencies)