Gandhi citadels under saffron siege

BJP is making all-out efforts to snatch Amethi, Rae Bareli from Congress and deal a psychological blow to the party

Published: 28th April 2018 10:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2018 10:10 AM   |  A+A-

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in her constituency Rae Bareli; (right) Congress president Rahul Gandhi meets people in his family pocket borough Amethi | PTI

LUCKNOW: With the Big Battle of 2019 just a year away, the Gandhi bastion has become a hotbed of politics.Sonia Gandhi spent two days in Rae Bareli last week and Rahul Gandhi three days in Amethi. Union I&B minister Smriti Irani, who contested from Amethi in 2014 but narrowly lost to Rahul, lined up a slew of schemes — from pilgrimage to free cows — for the people of Amethi. BJP chief Amit Shah landed up in Rae Bareli to welcome a local influential Congress family into the saffron fold.

Irani has consistently been nurturing Amethi since her 2014 defeat, given the BJP’s determined bid to wrest the Gandhi bastions from the Congress. During one of her recent visits, Irani told the people: “You should thank me that your MP, Rahul Gandhi, is now visiting you promptly to counter my presence amid you all.”

Shah has become active in Sonia’s citadel. He is eyeing Rae Bareli to deal a psychological blow to the Congress, which is gasping for political space in Uttar Pradesh, politically the most crucial state.Although Sonia is unlikely to be in the 2019 ring owing to health issues, a prominent political family of Rae Bareli — Dinesh Pratap Singh, Congress MLC, and his brother Awadhesh, a Congress district panchayat head in Rae Bareli — has quit the party and hopped on to the saffron bandwagon. Another brother, Rakesh Singh, who is the Congress MLA from   Harchandpur, has backed his brothers’ decision but not quit the party fearing action under the anti-defection law.

Shah’s rally last week, which was attended by a slew of central and Uttar Pradesh cabinet members, is being seen as political posturing to put down the Congress on home turf.“Amit Shah is a master strategist. By holding a huge rally and winning over the most prominent political family of Rae Bareli, Shah wants to send a message across poll-bound Karnataka, besides consolidating the BJP’s position in Rae Bareli,” a political commentator said.

“Amethi and Rae Bareli are slipping out of the Congress hands. Both the present and previous Congress chiefs will have to explain the retarded development of their constituencies for the last so many decades,” said a senior BJP leader.Shah’s Rae Bareli visit came barely 10 days after he held a closed-door meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow to chart out the course of action in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has been witnessing a consistent downslide in its performance in Uttar Pradesh. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the Modi juggernaut was on a roll, only Sonia and Rahul managed to retain their seats in UP, the Congress tally dipping to two from 21 in the 2009 polls.In the 2017 UP elections, the BJP stormed Amethi and Rae Bareli, with the Congress being routed in eight of the 10 Assembly seats. The BJP won  six of the seats while two went to the Samajwadi Party. The Congress lost all five seats in Amethi but won in two of the five seats in Rae Bareli.The same story was repeated in the state’s civic polls. The Congress not only lost Amethi, it also faced a drubbing in the Jais and Gauriganj nagarpalika polls.


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