AMETHI/RAE BARELI/SULTANPUR : What is in a name? It ought to mean a lot in UP’s Rae Bareli, Amethi and Sultanpur from where Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s Maneka Gandhi are contesting for the LS polls. Unlike the rest of UP, where caste and communal arithmetic influence electoral politics, only one thing matters in Rae Bareli and Amethi — the Gandhi surname.
Rae Bareli and Sultanpur remained a Congress stronghold long after Independence. When the Amethi constituency was carved out of Rae Bareli and Sultanpur in the late 1960s, it continued to be a pocket borough of the Gandhi family. However, the ground is shifting slowly. While the Gandhi surname still holds influence, the younger generation has started asking why blindly vote for the Gandhis. This is more visible in Amethi, where BJP’s Smriti Irani is posing a stiff challenge to Rahul.
In Sultanpur, the Gandhi surname does not carry any weight at all. Curiously, it is Maneka who is doing her best to leverage the Gandhi surname by regularly invoking her husband Sanjay Gandhi’s work in the area. “Rashtriya neta hain unko jeetana to banta hai (she is a national leader and she should win from here). Rae Bareli ka naam Gandhi pariwar se hai varna is chote se kasbe ko kaun jaanta (Rae Bareli is because of the Gandhi family, otherwise who would know about it?),” says Rajendra Kumar Kushwaha, a farmer from Bacchrawa village.
While most people praise the work done by Sonia in Rae Bareli in the past 15 years, there is inchoate anger against Rahul in Amethi. People are unhappy as the Gandhi scion rarely turns up in his constituency and Amethi hasn’t got the benefits of a VVIP constituency.
Many youngsters in Amethi say they will vote for the BJP as they want development but their parents will go with Rahul as they still remember his father Rajiv Gandhi and the work done by him. “Look around, does it even look like a constituency represented by the Gandhi family since decades? Saifai in UP has been developed like a foreign city by Akhilesh Yadav. But here, we don’t even have good roads and water for drinking. How long can we vote in the name of Gandhi?” asks Shailendra Singh, an agriculturist from Tikri village. Sultanpur was a Congress stronghold only for the first few decades after Independence but the party lost control over Sultanpur in the later years.
Gandhi name not a factor in Sultanpur
Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s younger son, carried a lot of development work in these constituencies and that is what BJP candidate and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is trying to encash upon.
In the neighbouring Sultanpur constituency, the Gandhi magic wanes and it is the caste that plays an important role.Maneka Gandhi is getting a tough fight from Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party candidate Sonu Singh, a local strongman in the area.
The constituency was earlier represented by her son Varun Gandhi, who is now contesting from the Pilibhit constituency. The Gandhi factor here doesn’t come into play.“People here do not vote in the name of Gandhis; that is limited to Amethi and Rae Bareli. Instead, it is the caste factor that plays the major role,” said Prem Kumar Mishra, a teacher in Trilokpur village in Sultanpur area.Mishra, who had just come out of a public meeting of Maneka Gandhi, added that she is seeking support in name of both Sanjay Gandhi’s legacy and Bharatiya Janata Party’s work in the area.
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