Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav during an election rally for the Lok Sabha polls, in Kanpur, Friday, May 10, 2024.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav during an election rally for the Lok Sabha polls, in Kanpur, Friday, May 10, 2024.Photo | PTI

Lok Sabha polls: Samajwadi Party's red caps boost Congress' chances in Amethi, Rae Bareli

Traditionally, the SP always tacitly extended support to the Congress in the parliamentary polls, helping the Gandhi family in their pocket borough.

RAE BARELI/AMETHI: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's standing directive to party workers in the 17 seats on which alliance partner Congress is contesting in Uttar Pradesh was to fight as if "your own party is in the fray," and the ample presence of red caps at Amethi and Rae Bareli rallies shows the dictum is working.

The SP-Congress alliance may have failed to take off in the 2017 assembly polls, but in the high-profile seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli the workers of the two parties seem to be working as a team on the ground to ensure the victory of "INDIA bloc candidates" in the two constituencies.

As Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra drives a high-octane campaign in Amethi and Rae Bareli addressing back-to-back corner meetings and rallies, a constant feature in her public programmes is the presence of the SP's red cap-clad cadre.

Many leaders blamed the hurriedness of the 2017 alliance for not being able to reach the grassroots and the tie-up remaining on paper but SP and Congress workers here say that it is different this time.

"If you would recall the alliance in 2017 was reached at the last minute and it could not penetrate down the organisation. This time since the INDIA bloc had been holding meetings there was growing coordination among the workers and leaders of both parties," SP's Rae Bareli district chief Virendra Yadav told PTI.

"As soon as the alliance was announced by our leader Akhilesh Yadav ji, he called a meeting of office bearers and key leaders from the 17 seats which had been given to the Congress. He told them that 'fight the polls as if your own party is in the fray.' All SP workers are following his directive," he said.

Virendra Yadav noted that earlier there had been a tacit understanding in the Lok Sabha polls in Amethi and Rae Bareli in favour of Congress candidates but this time with a "declared alliance," the workers are more enthused and committed to ensuring that INDIA bloc candidates Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli and Kishori Lal Sharma in Amethi score big wins.

"With people upset with the BJP, SP and Congress workers are confident that Gandhi will win by a record margin in Rae Bareli while Sharma will win by a good margin in Amethi," the SP district president said.

He said the SP workers here are also taking the Congress 'guarantee cards' that have the party's promises to the people.

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Congress leader Anshu Awasthi, who is involved in media publicity in the two constituencies, said the reason behind the enthusiastic support of SP workers in Rae Bareli and Amethi is clear as they have had a close, familial and very emotional attachment with the Gandhi family in the two constituencies.

"Elders of the SP workers and leaders have also been associated with the Gandhi family in the past here, hence somewhere the people of SP have their affection and attachment towards the Gandhi family and they are trying to win the polls here with full force," he said.

Former district president of SP in Rae Bareli Ram Naresh Yadav said the SP cadres are as enthused as Congress workers and are working hard to ensure a big win in Rae Bareli and Amethi for the INDIA bloc candidates.

"The coordination is there among the SP workers and that of the Congress. A joint rally is scheduled to take place here in which Rahul Gandhi ji and Akhilesh Yadav ji will come which would further demonstrate the strength of this alliance," he told PTI.

Ram Vilas Yadav, a former district general secretary of the SP and a party worker, said his party has a strong base in Rae Bareli with four out of five MLAs being from the party and with the alliance working at the grassroots, both seats will see the Congress through comfortably.

The Rae Bareli constituency comprises five assembly segments -- Bachhrawanm Harchandpur, Rae Bareli, Unchahar and Sareni. The Amethi parliamentary constituency comprises the assembly segments of Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi.

Out of the 10 assembly segments, six have SP MLAs but out of them two have extended support to the BJP.

Traditionally, the SP always tacitly extended support to the Congress in the parliamentary polls, helping the Gandhi family in their pocket borough.

However, this time there is a declared alliance between the two parties and the coordination among the workers of the two parties is visible.

Any rally or corner meeting has workers waving flags of the two parties and the main gate of the Congress office in Gauriganj has flags of the two parties. The flags of the two parties are found everywhere in that office.

Any Congress public meeting addressed by Priyanka Gandhi or Kishori Lal Sharma or other Congress leaders has a sizeable number of SP workers in attendance. This bonhomie seems to be not just restricted to party office-bearers and workers.

Supporters also are enthused about the alliance.

Kamlesh Yadav, a resident of Shahgarh village in Amethi, said he is a staunch Akhilesh Yadav supporter and since he has entered into an alliance with the Congress, his vote and support is for the Congress.

"All Yadavs are united this time. Last time, some may have voted for the BJP but this time we will vote where Akhilesh ji has asked us to vote," he told PTI.

"When Akhilesh ji and Rahul ji hold joint rally here on May 17, most people from the village will go spending their own money such is the enthusiasm for the alliance," said Shyamlal Yadav, a resident of Shahgarh which has a significant number of Brahman and Yadav population.

While Rahul Gandhi is contesting against BJP's Dinesh Pratap Singh in Rae Bareli, Gandhi family aide Lal Sharma is taking on BJP's Smriti Irani in Amethi.

The two constituencies go to polls in the fifth phase of the seven-phase election on May 20. 

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