The battle for Amethi – Going gets tough for Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004 when he contested the Lok Sabha polls, standing from his father and former PM of India Rajiv Gandhi`s constituency of Amethi.

Zee Media Bureau/Manisha Singh

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004 when he contested the Lok Sabha polls, standing from his father and former PM of India Rajiv Gandhi`s constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. His mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had held the seat till then. She subsequently shifted to neighbouring seat of Rae Barely.

At the time Rahul joined politics the Congress were not much of a force in Uttar Pradesh and had only 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. However, he won Amethi with a margin of over 100,000 votes. Before the next General Elections took place, Rahul was appointed the general secretary of the Congress party. He was also given charge of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls Rahul again contested from Amethi and won by over 3 lakh 70,000 votes, getting over 70 percent of the vote against BJP`s 6 percent. The Congress-led UPA also came back to power at the Centre for the second time in a row with Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister.

Cut to the Lok Sabha polls 2014 and as per ground reports the going may not be easy for Rahul third time around. Though not many believe, inspite of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and others saying their candidate Smriti Irani has a good chance of winning in Amethi, that Rahul may lose, one can say that this is the toughest challenge that the Congress vice president is facing in his political career.
Challenging Rahul on his home turf is Aam Aadmi Party`s Kumar Vishwas who has been camping in the area for months now. And with Irani joining the fray its a three way fight.

As per experts, Kumar may or may not win but he will definitely cut into Congress` votes. Also AAP is said to have made inroads into the Muslim community. Perhaps this may be one of the reasons for BJP and its UP in-charge Amit Shah smelling blood.

However, there is a catch here, the Muslims or maybe a section of it may go back to the Congress to halt the BJP. On the other hand the BSP leader is weak there and the BJP may fancy Dalit votes coming to it.

As for Irani, though she joined the battle much later, she has been campaigning in the area round the clock and has accused the Gandhi family of neglecting Amethi. She along with Vishwas have attacked Rahul for lack of development and infrastructure in Amethi with bad roads, bad health care facilities and bad state of schools amongst others.
The Opposition has also accused Rahul of being an absentee MP and hardly visiting Amethi. Maybe the Gandhi family has realised that the victory for Rahul may not come as easily this time around and hence Priyanka has literally been campaigning for her brother non-stop and has been raising the emotional pitch in all her public meetings.

She has evoked her father and her grandmother and former PM of India Indira Gandhi`s name and has reminded the people of the sacrifices that they made for the nation.

She has also reminded the people of the connect between the Gandhi family and Amethi and Rae Bareli.

It is this emotional connect that the people of Amethi and Rae Bareli have for the Gandhi family for generations now, may be one of the most vital reasons that Rahul may win in Amethi.

But it may not come as a surprise to many if his victory margin is reduced from 2004 and 2009. It is not only the lack of involvement in Amethi that he has been accused of but he is also saddled with ten years of anti-incumbency of the Congress-led UPA government.

Rahul`s constituency does boast of an IIIT, NIFT and Footwear Design and Development Institute etc but the questions that are being asked is whether it is enough to hand him a landslide victory.

The BJP attempted a final push in Amethi on May 05 when its PM candidate Narendra Modi landed on Rahul`s bastion, breaking an unwritten code of not campaigning on rival`s turf and unleashed a ferocious attack on the Gandhi family.

He accused the `family` of neglecting the area for the past 40 years and promised to develop it in seven months. He also exhorted the people to vote for his `sister` Irnai.

BJP also unveiled a host of statistics saying that Amethi`s per capital income was Rs 10,000 lower than that of the average for Uttar Pradesh, and Rs 40,000 lower than the national average.

They also said that Rahul Gandhi`s pet project, the 100-days employment guarantee, had a delivery rate of only 3.2 percent in Amethi.

With more than 50,000 thousand people attending Modi`s rally, the mood in the BJP camp is upbeat. But will it reap any dividend is a question that can be answered only on May 16 when the counting of votes is to take place.

Meanwhile, BJP`s confidence can also be said to be emanating from the fact that it hoping to come back to power at Centre after a decade riding on the so-called Modi wave.

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