LUCKNOW: 'Abki baar, Amethi hamaar' (Amethi is ours this time), 'Bharat Mata ki jai' and 'Didi hai to mumkin hai' (Impossible is possible with didi there)-- the slogans were ranting the air as Union minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani waded through the streets of Amethi holding a road show to reach collectorate to file her nomination papers on Thursday.
Flanked by CM Yogi Adityanath and husband Zubin Irani, Smriti filed her papers to challenge Gandhi scion for the second consecutive time in general elections. She was BJP candidate from Amethi in 2014 also.
Ahead of filing the nomination, Smriti Irani targeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi by questioning his silence on money trail in Madhya Pradesh involving CM Kamalnath’s kin. She asked whom at Tuglaq Road in New Delhi was being supplied that cash in the election season.
Repeating her ‘Missing MP’ jibe, Smriti claimed that decision of Congress chief to contest from a second seat was her victory. “Rahul Gandhi has himself accepted his defeat by moving to Waynad,” she averred.
While interacting with media, Irani promised all-round development of Amethi which was overlooked by its ‘missing MP’. She criticised the Congress president for failing to address the rural distress in the constituency, women issues and infrastructure requirements.
Earlier, Smriti performed prayers along with husband Zubin and visited two local temples – Lodhi Baba and Boodhan Mai temple. Amethi will see voting in the fifth phase on May 6, 2019. Smriti is facing a formidable challenge to breach the Congress citadel this time.
Locked in a direct contest with Rahul Gandhi, she sounded confident and aggressive. This confidence, however, is attributed to her performance in previous election. With a campaign of just 20 days, Smriti, in 2014, could muster over three lakh votes bringing down the margin of Rahul Gandhi’s victory to one lakh from 3 lakh in 2009. Smriti kept returning to Amethi even after defeat with VIP projects worth several crore. In fact, ‘didi’, as Smriti is referred to here, has managed to create a space for the BJP. She paid 21 visits to Amethi and spent around a month, when total number of days added, in the constituency during last five years.
Irani has been aggressive highlighting development done through her efforts. “Broadening of railway line, much demanded Pipri dam, a new unit of HAL, a number of sops for farmers, social self help groups for women besides roads and schools are a few to name,” says Govind Singh, BJP Amethi unit incharge.
But Amethi election hinges more on emotional ties than anything else. The Congress connect with Amethi dates back to 1977, when the then PM Indira Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay chose the parliamentary seat for his debut in electoral politics. Since then till Rahul Gandhi in 2014, Amethi has been standing firmly by the Gandhi family and Congress party except 1998 when Sanjay Sinh had won the seat for BJP under Vajpayee.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi maintains that emotional connect with her visits. She renewed it on Wednesday while accompanying brother Rahul along with her husband and children at his nomination. “This is a sacred land for me and my family. This is the Krambhoomi of my father and that is why the entire family has come for Rahulji’s nomination,” Priyanka had said.
Though it is a battle evenly poised between loyalty and ground realities, the BJP is using every arrow in its quiver. The saffron juggernaut has pushed hard to engineer defections in Congress with some success. Mohd Muslim, a former Congress MLA from Tiloi, who had been accusing the BJP of scrapping key projects in Amethi, surprised everyone by joining the party a few days back.
Several leaders with local influence like former BSP lawmaker Vijay Shankar Tiwari too have joined the BJP. Moreover, Irani has been staying put in Amethi for over a week. She is visiting Amethi voters, local leaders door to door. How much she succeeds in breaching fort Amethi will come out on May 23.