UP election: Amethi’s choice between the two ranis, Amita and Garima Singh
Voters in Amethi have a choice to make: whether to vote for Amita Singh or Garima Singh — the two queens. RS member Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita is the Congress candidate for the Amethi assembly seat while the BJP has fielded his estranged spouse, Garima, from the same constituency.assembly elections Updated: Feb 25, 2017 15:00 IST
The 75-year-old Pancham has been seeing to it for long that the erstwhile royal family of Amethi always show up in clean, hot-pressed clothes. The dhobi or washerman of Bhupati Bhawan palace is privileged with a unique democratic reward for his regal laundry service.
Palace customs and conventions allow him to be the first person from the household to cast the vote in any election.
When Amethi votes in the fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh polls on Monday, he will press the button on the electronic voting machine before his master — Congress Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh, known as the rajah of Amethi.
But Pancham is in a dilemma, unable to make a choice: whether to vote for Amita Singh or Garima Singh — the two queens.
Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita is the Congress candidate for the Amethi assembly seat. The BJP has fielded his estranged spouse, Garima, from the same constituency.
“I am confused. I have to choose one rani. As the washerman of the royal house for 58 years, I find this task the most challenging in my life. If I am allowed to vote on the same booth, Raja Saheb will vote after me. I am not sure what to do,” Pancham said.
Singh has been campaigning for Amita. That gives the loyal royal help the option of following his master’s choice, whose prestige he feels is at stake.
Singh and Amita do not speak much about Garima on the campaign trail. But they speak against the BJP.
Singh has often blamed the BJP for creating a rift in his family. At a public meeting that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed to seek votes for Amita on Thursday, Singh said the BJP had enacted a family drama in Amethi.
“The woman who does not know the BJP and Amethi is now a BJP candidate,” he said, referring to his first wife.
State transport minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, accused in a rape case, is the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from the seat. The Congress and SP are up against each other in some seats, despite their pre-poll alliance to fight the UP elections together.
“The Congress is bound to gain if Prajapati becomes weak,” said Hasan, an Amethi resident. “But Garima Singh has the sympathy factor with her,” said a youth beside him.
In nearby Tiloi, one of the five assembly constituencies within the Amethi Lok Sabha segment, another royal pride is at stake — not for the Congress, but for the BJP.
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh, called the raja of Tiloi for his lineage, is the BJP candidate for the seat that he failed to win in 2012. He was with the Samajwadi Party then, and lost to Mohammad Muslim of the Congress.
“Yes, people know the Tiloi royal house very well. It is always an advantage to be a candidate from a royal house. I have represented the constituency in the past,” he said.
Singh joined the BJP a few days before the 2017 polls while Muslim, who has been expelled from the Congress, has fielded son Mohammad Saood as a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate.
“This time, I am banking on the non-performance of MLA Mohammad Muslim. I have made development of the area an election issue. I am sure of winning the seat this time,” said Singh, who is up against Vinod Kumar Mishra of the Congress.
“The Congress is in a straight contest with the BJP on this seat. Muslim, the sitting MLA, may pose a problem to the Congress candidate by taking away some of the party votes,” a political leader said.